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Also by Auberon Waugh 

THE FOXGLOVE SAGA 
PATH OF DALLIANCE 
WHO ARE THE VIOLETS NOW? 
CONSIDER THE LILIES 
A BED OF FLOWERS 
COUNTRY TOPICS 

FOUR CROWDED YEARS: DIARIES 1972-1976 
IN THE LION’S DEN 

with Suzanne Cronje 


BIAFRA: BRITAIN’S SHAME 


The Last Word 








The 

Last Word 


An Eyewitness Account of 
the Trial of Jeremy Thorpe 


AUBERON WAUGH 



LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY • BOSTON • TORONTO 




WBLIC LIBRARY 

** a ano aueh coutai m, 


COPYRIGHT© 1980 BY AUBERON WAUGH 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCED 
IN ANY FORM OR BY ANY ELECTRONIC OR MECHANICAL MEANS IN¬ 
CLUDING INFORMATION STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL SYSTEMS WITHOUT 
PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER, EXCEPT BY A REVIEWER 
WHO MAY QUOTE BRIEF PASSAGES IN A REVIEW. 

FIRST AMERICAN EDITION 


LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA 
Waugh, Auberon. 

The last word, an eyewitness account of the trial 
of Jeremy Thorpe. 

1. Thorpe, Jeremy. 2. Trials (Murder) — England 
— London. 3. Trials (Conspiracy) — England — 
London. I. Title. 

KD373.T5W38. 345.42'02523 80-18164 

ISBN 0-316-92632-9 


BP 


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 





For Richard Ingrams, guide, philosopher and friend, one of 
the few Englishmen who emerges with any credit from the 
narrative of these events 


fX:- 




“Remember, I have the last word.” 

The Honourable Mr Justice Cantley 
Old Bailey, 11 June 1979 







Contents 


“A Rather Bizarre and Surprising Case” 7 

Dramatis Personae 9 

Introduction 15 

1 Is It Fair, Right and Just? 35 

2 Tale of Mr Peter Taylor 47 

3 Mr Peter Bessell 65 

4 The Agony of Mr Peter Bessell 73 

5 Tale of a Flopsy Bunny: Mr Norman Scott 97 

6 Rabbit Redux 106 

7 The Hit Man 119 

8 Miller’s Tale 145 

9 First Tale of Mr Jeremy Thorpe 151 

10 Two Nice Respectable Witnesses: 

Hayward and Dinshaw 155 

11 Further Tales of Mr Jeremy Thorpe: Mr Challes 161 

12 The Defence 178 

13 Closing Addresses: the Crown 183 

14 Closing Addresses: the Defence 196 

15 Interlude: A Layman’s Summary 213 

16 The Judge’s Summing Up 217 

17 Verdict, Aftermath and Epilogue 236 











The Last Word 







“A Rather Bizarre and Surprising Case” 


On Friday 24 October 1975, the Right Honourable Harold Wilson 
was Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jeremy Thorpe was 
leader of the Liberal Party whose support was becoming more and 
more necessary to keep the Labour Government in power. 
Thorpe’s friend, Antony Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon, was 
the husband of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, the 
Queen’s sister. Thorpe’s lawyer was Lord Goodman, an eminent 
man in public life. 

That night a dark-coloured Ford Escort stopped in a lay-by on a 
stretch of the A39 which runs up Porlock Hill and across the moors 
to Lynmouth on a wild cliff-top stretch of the Somerset coast. A 
man got out, and ran round the front of the car as if to change places; 
a second man got out from the driver’s seat, followed by a Great 
Dane. The second man, later identified as Andrew Gino Newton, an 
airline pilot, shot the dog through the head, killing it instantly, and 
then pointed the pistol at the first man, later identified as Norman 
Scott, a former stable lad and male model. The pistol appeared to 
jam. Shouting, “Oh fuck it! - I’ll get you,” Newton got into the car 
and drove back towards Porlock. Scott was left, sobbing hysteri¬ 
cally, beside the corpse of his dog on a dark, wet and windy night on 
the top of Exmoor. 

Later he saw headlights coming over the moor, ran out and 
flagged down the car. He said, “Oh please. He’s shot my dog. He 
tried to shoot me. It’s all because of Jeremy Thorpe.” 

On Tuesday 16 March 1976 Newton stood trial in Exeter accused 
of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. Scott was the 
chief prosecution witness. Two days earlier, he had been denounced 
on the front page of the Sunday Times as an incorrigible liar in a 
signed article by the Right Honourable Jeremy Thorpe, leader of 
the Liberal Party. On the day the trial opened, Harold Wilson 
announced his resignation, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon 
announced their separation. Newton was sentenced to two years’ 






8 


THE LAST WORD 


imprisonment, serving slightly over one year. On 10 May, Thorpe 
resigned as Liberal leader. 

On Friday 4 August 1978 Thorpe was arrested with his old friend, 
David Holmes, a former deputy treasurer of the Liberal Party, 
and two others. They were charged at Minehead police station, 
Somerset, with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott. Thorpe was 
also charged with inciting David Holmes to murder him. 

At Minehead Magistrates’ Court, it was suggested that Scott had 
become a danger to Thorpe’s reputation as the result of a homo¬ 
sexual relationship between the two men in the early 1960s. Com¬ 
mitted for trial on 13 December 1978, they were to have appeared 
at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, on 30 April 1979, but on 
Mr Thorpe’s application to the Lord Chief Justice the trial was 
postponed until 8 May, so that Thorpe could stand for re-election as 
Member of Parliament for North Devon. Despite enthusiastic sup¬ 
port from many Liberals in the constituency, he lost his seat. 

The trial, which started on 8 May, ended on 22 June 1979 with a 
unanimous verdict of “Not guilty,” after the jury had been out for 
fifty-two hours. 

Lord Goodman issued a statement to the press immediately after 
the verdict was announced: . . it would appear to be quite 

unnecessary for any further statement to be made by me except to 
reaffirm that there is not a scintilla of truth in any of the allegations 
that have been aired.” 


Regina 

versus 

David Holmes, George Deakin, John Le Mesurier, 
John Jeremy Thorpe 


Dramatis Personae 
The Prosecution Witnesses 

Norman Scott (born Josiffe) The victim, who claimed his 
homosexual relationship with Thorpe led to a murder attempt. “A 
hysterical, warped personality, accomplished sponger and very skil¬ 
ful at exciting and exploiting sympathy,” said the judge. “At one 
time he was suspected of stealing silver from a house where he was 
living free in Dublin, but he has denied this. He is a crook ... He is a 
fraud, he is a sponger. He is a whiner. He is a parasite. But, of 
course, he could still be telling the truth. It is a question of belief . .. 
I am not expressing any opinion.” 

Andrew Gino Newton (born Nievedonski) The hit man who 
said he had been hired to murder Norman Scott. He was “a highly 
incompetent performer,” said the judge. “A chump . . . a conceited 
bungler . . . I doubt whether he has paid any income tax . . . one has 
to look at his evidence with great care.” 

Peter Joseph Bessell Chief prosecution witness. Former 
Liberal MP for Bodmin and close colleague of Jeremy Thorpe, 
who said that Thorpe in his presence had incited David Holmes 
to murder Norman Scott, and requested both of them to join a con¬ 
spiracy to murder him. “A very intelligent, very articulate man,” 
said the judge. “He must have impressed the electors of Cornwall 
very much. He was a lay preacher at the same time as being [as he 
put it] sexually promiscuous. And therefore a humbug ... You 
must look at Bessell’s evidence with suspicion.” 

David Miller Printer. A friend of Newton who introduced him to 
George Deakin as someone “who would do anything for a laugh or 
a giggle.” Later he taped conversations with two of the accused 
which were produced as evidence. The judge described him as “the 
last of the dubious commercial witnesses.” 





10 


THE LAST WORD 


Jack Arnold Hayward A millionaire who paid large sums of 
money to Thorpe about this time. The judge described him as “a 
nice respectable witness.” 

Nadir Dinshaw A Channel Islands business man of Asian 
extraction who received sums of money from Mr Hayward on 
Thorpe’s behalf and paid them to David Holmes at Thorpe’s 
request, sometimes in small cash parcels. Another “ nice respectable 
witness.” 

Colin Lambert An old soldier and former employee of one of 
the defendants, whom he reported (at Minehead) as saying, “A fool 
was hired to kill Norman Scott. Someone more like you should have 
been hired to do the job.” The judge said it might be that this 
defendant was trying to make out he had a bigger part in something 
than he actually had had. 

Michael Challes The policeman. Detective Chief Super¬ 
intendent, Somerset and Avon Constabulary. Twenty-six years a 
policeman. Described by Deakin, after the verdict, as “a real 
gentleman.” The judge had no comment about him until, prompted 
by the Crown, he agreed that the police conduct had been 
“impeccable.” 

Plus a small supporting cast of experts, extras, uncontested 
affidavits, et cetera. 


The Lawyers 


Peter Murray Taylor QC Leading counsel for the Crown. 

Gareth Williams QC Leading counsel for Mr Deakin. Fre¬ 
quently referred to by his learned friends as “Mr Jones”. 

John Charles Mathew QC Leading counsel for Mr Holmes. 
Educated by Jesuits, only son of the late Sir Theobald Mathew, DPP 
1944-64. 

Denis Cowley QC Leading counsel for Mr Le Mesurier. Manx 
Old Radleian. Wears moustache. 


DRAMATIS PERSONAE 


11 


George Alfred Carman QC Leading counsel for Mr Thorpe. 
Educated at St Joseph’s College, Blackpool. An Oxford contem¬ 
porary of Thorpe’s. 

Plus a huge supporting cast of junior counsel, solicitors, junior 
solicitors, articled clerks and learned gentlemen with watching 
briefs. 


The Defendants 

George Deakin A Conservative. Described by the judge as 
being “of unblemished reputation,” despite earlier prison sentence. 
Club owner and trader in gambling machines, South Wales. 
Married. 

David Malcolm Holmes Financial consultant. Former deputy 
treasurer of the Liberal Party. Old and close friend of Thorpe. A 
bachelor. Did not give evidence. 

John Le Mesurier Carpet dealer, South Wales. Acquaintance of 
Deakin, business associate of Holmes. A noisy fellow. Married. Did 
not give evidence. 

The Right Honourable John Jeremy Thorpe A party poli¬ 
tician. Member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, 
former Member of Parliament and leader of the Liberal Party. Did 
not give evidence. Described by the judge as “a national figure with 
a very distinguished public record.” The fact that he had not given 
evidence did not mean that his good character should be ignored, 
said the judge. Thorpe’s letters to Scott indicated an affectionate 
relationship, but “you must not assume that mere affection necess¬ 
arily implies buggery.” 


Others 

Rinka A murdered Great Dane. Did not give evidence. The 
judge had no comment to make about this animal. 

The Honourable Sir Joseph Donaldson Cantley The judge, 
aged sixty-eight. A press report describes how, trying a case 


12 


THE LAST WORD 


which involved a bull-dozer accident to a twenty-three- 
year-old man, the judge was told that his injuries had affected the 
man’s sex life. The judge asked if he was married. “No,” replied 
counsel. “Well, I can’t see how it affects his sex life,” the judge 
observed. His lordship was married for the first time at fifty-six to 
Hilda, widow of a fellow judge, Sir Denis Gerard. Of himself, the 
judge said, “Remember, I have the last word.” 


The Charges 



that on divers days between 1 
January 1973 and 18 November 
1977 in the county of Devon 
and elsewhere they conspired 
together and with others un¬ 
known to murder Norman Scott 


John Jeremy Thorpe 


that between 1 January 1969 
and 30 March 1969 he unlaw¬ 
fully incited David Malcolm 
Holmes to murder Norman 
Scott 


DRAMATIS PERSONAE 


13 


Diary of Number One Court 
Central Criminal Court 
Old Bailey 


Regina 

versus 

D. M. Holmes, G. Deakin, J. Le Mesurier, J. J. Thorpe 
8 May 1979 -22 June 1979 


Day one: 8 May Charges read. Jury sworn. Legal submissions to 
have Mr Bessell’s evidence excluded. Also Mr Scott’s and Mr 
Newton’s. 

Day two: 9 May Legal submissions end. Mr Taylor opens case for 
Crown. 

Day three: 10 May Crown narrative continues. 

Day four: 11 May Mr Taylor concludes his outline and calls Mr 
Bessell. 

Day five: 14 May Bessell’s examination-in-chief continued. 

Day six: 15 May Bessell cross-examined by Mr Mathew and Mr 
Carman (for Holmes and Thorpe). 

Day seven: 16 May Mr Carman’s cross-examination continued. 
Day eight: 17 May Mr Carman’s cross-examination concluded. 
Day nine: 18 May Mr Taylor re-examines Bessell, then calls 
Norman Scott. 

Day ten: 21 May Scott’s examination-in-chief continued. 

Day eleven: 22 May Scott briefly cross-examined by Mr Williams 
and Mr Cowley (for Deakin and Le Mesurier), then by Mr Carman. 
Re-examined by Mr Taylor. 

Day twelve: 23 May Various minor witnesses and sworn state¬ 
ments. Then Andrew Gino Newton called. 

Day thirteen: 24 May Newton’s examination-in-chief continued. 
Day fourteen: 25 May Newton cross-examined by Mr Mathew, 
then by Mr Williams. 

Day fifteen: 29 May Newton’s cross-examination by Mr Williams 
concluded. Then Mr Cowley cross-examines, Mr Taylor re¬ 
examines. Newton dismissed. Minor witnesses. 

Day sixteen: 30 May David Miller called by Crown. 

Day seventeen: 31 May Miller cross-examined by Mr Williams 
and Mr Cowley; re-examined. Minor witnesses, including Mr Colin 
Lambert. 



14 


THE LAST WORD 


Day eighteen: 4 June Mr Jack Hayward and Mr Nadir Dinshaw. 
Day nineteen: 5 June Written statements. Mr Challes called. 
Various legal arguments. 

Day twenty: 6 June Challes’s examination concluded. Crown case 
concluded. Legal submissions of no case to answer. 

Day twenty-one: 7 June The defence. No evidence called for 
Holmes. Deakin examined and cross-examined. No evidence called 
for Le Mesurier or Thorpe. Defence ends. 

Day twenty-two: 11 June Mr Taylor sums up for Crown. 

Day twenty-three: 12 June Mr Taylor continues his case. 

Day twenty-four: 13 June Mr Mathew’s case for acquitting 
Holmes. 

Day twenty-five: 14 June Mr Williams for Deakin: Mr Cowley for 
Le Mesurier. Mr Carman for Thorpe. 

Day twenty-six: 15 June Mr Carman concluded. 

Day twenty-seven: 18 June Judge’s summing up. 

Day twenty-eight: 19 June Ditto. 

Day twenty-nine: 20 June Summing up concluded. Jury out. 
Defendants’ bail withdrawn. 

Day thirty: 21 June Jury out all day. 

Day thirty-one: 22 June Verdict. 

Epilogue: 1 July Service of Thanksgiving for Mr Thorpe’s 
acquittal. 



Introduction 


On the second day of his closing speech, Mr Thorpe’s counsel, Mr 
George Carman QC, urged the jury to reflect that a not guilty 
verdict was not a “certificate of innocence” by the jury. In law, he 
said, it meant that the prosecution had failed to make out the 
charges - no more and no less than that. In almost the same breath, 
Mr Carman corrected a suggestion of the previous day when, in a 
fine burst of oratory, he had declared that, as a result of the evi¬ 
dence, the jury would be aware that a political life and political 
future were now “irrevocably and irreversibly” denied to his client. 
“But at his age,” said Mr Carman next day, having thought about it 
overnight and possibly discussed the matter with instructing 
solicitors, “there may still be a place somewhere in the public life 
and public service of this country for a man of his talents.” 

On the first point, at least, Mr Carman is surely wrong. His client, 
the Right Honourable Jeremy Thorpe, a member of Her Majesty’s 
Most Honourable Privy Council, one-time and possibly future 
Member of Parliament, leader of the Liberal Party, may not have 
been given a certificate to prove his innocence of conspiracy and 
incitement to murder. But he has a cast-iron guarantee that he is 
innocent, not only in the sense that everybody in Britain is innocent 
until proved guilty of a crime but in the more particular sense that he 
can never be charged with this alleged conspiracy or this alleged 
incitement again. If, in the course of this book, I seem to emphasise 
the Crown evidence, which was heard in an unsuccessful attempt to 
prove that Mr Thorpe did conspire with others to murder the male 
model with whom he enjoyed at one time a “close, even affectionate 
relationship,” and that he did incite his friend, David Holmes to 
murder him, this is for a very simple reason. No evidence to the 
contrary was ever offered. Mr Carman did not call any witnesses in 
his client’s defence, nor did Mr Thorpe offer any evidence himself. 
Only one of the defendants gave evidence - George Deakin - and 
his evidence was chiefly concerned to establish that the conspiracy 





16 


THE LAST WORD 


(in which he agreed he had a part) was one to frighten not to murder 
Norman Scott. Mr Thorpe, by contrast, had explicitly denied to the 
police that he had a part in any conspiracy to frighten. 

It is not possible for me - nor is it any part of a chronicler’s job - to 
guess what Mr Thorpe's defence might have been had he chosen to 
offer any. As the judge was at pains to remind the jury in the course 
of his summing up, it is the Crown’s duty to establish a charge, not 
the defence’s duty to refute it; if the jury had any doubts they should 
acquit. 

So it is inevitable, under the circumstances, that any account of 
the Thorpe trial should read as a catalogue of reasons for believing 
that the defendants were guilty, modified only by defence counsel’s 
efforts to cast doubt on these reasons. By the end, of course, after 
we have had four eloquent speeches by the four defence QCs, 
reinforced by the judge’s tirade against the three chief Crown 
witnesses, we shall be able to understand the verdict rather better. 
But it is as well at this stage to emphasise, in a way Mr Carman was 
apparently reluctant to emphasise, that the jury have effectively 
given Mr Thorpe a certificate of innocence and nothing whatever 
must be allowed to impugn it. Mr Thorpe is innocent. That is not a 
question of opinion or belief or interpretation but a matter of 
historical fact, and nothing in these pages must be interpreted as 
calling it into question. The fact of Mr Thorpe’s innocence is beyond 
question and beyond discussion. 

On one view of the trial, its results were reassuring enough. As Mr 
Carman put it, it was “a matter properly investigated and properly 
decided.” To those who followed the story from its beginning, it will 
seem-less likely than before that an innocent man of good character, 
let alone a “national figure with a very distinguished public record,” 
will ever be wrongly convicted. There is no tradition in British 
political life by which party politicians hire gunmen to murder-or 
even frighten - members of the public who threaten to embarrass 
their political careers, and it was reassuring to learn that their 
presence is not yet established. A few of those who listened to Judge 
Cantley’s summing up may have wondered how such a conspiracy 
could ever be proved against a man in public life. But then the 
tremendous respect and deference we all feel towards men in public 
life may make it hard for us to believe that any such person could 
ever be guilty of consenting to behaviour of this sort. In any case, the 
verdict shows that these anxieties, if they exist, belong to the future, 
not to the present. 

A different misgiving was expressed - chiefly in the House of 



INTRODUCTION 


17 


Commons, but also in other official quarters - about the propriety of 
the charges having been brought at all. It was pointed out that Mr 
Thorpe had been put to considerable expense and inconvenience - 
others described it more luridly, talking about the ‘‘agony” of Jeremy 
Thorpe and his family - to establish his innocence of a charge when 
the law had always assumed him innocent in the first place. Mr 
Carman was adamant that no adverse conclusion should be drawn 
from the fact that his client did not apply for costs at the end of the 
day, and I am sure that nobody present drew any such conclusions. 
But the astounding fact remains that a large number of people, 
including the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Avon and 
Somerset Police and many others, were prepared to entertain the 
bizarre notion, at some stage, that Thorpe might be guilty. I have to 
confess that I was among their number. It was this erroneous idea 
which explains my early interest in what became known as the Scott 
affair, and my decision to write this book about the trial. It may be 
read, if people choose, as a gesture of atonement for ever having 
entertained the silly idea that a Privy Councillor, an MP, an Old 
Etonian, a barrister, a friend of prime ministers, archbishops and 
high officials, a former client of Lord Goodman, could ever be 
found guilty of conspiring to murder a homosexual male model of 
lower-middle class background and doubtful record. Equally, it 
may be read, if people prefer, for the light it throws on the prosecu¬ 
tion case, offering a partial explanation why so many people were 
prepared, at one time, to entertain such a preposterous idea. 

No doubt the real reason that many of us were open to such 
wicked and uncharitable thoughts about an eminent party politician 
lies much deeper. We must all examine our consciences. For my 
own part, when I first made Mr Thorpe’s acquaintance, I felt uneasy 
in his presence. Becoming political correspondent of the Spectator 
in 1967 I had the opportunity to watch him at close quarters for 
some time, both on the floor of the House of Commons and in its 
lobbies and corridors, and decided that my unease might be 
explained by the double-breasted waistcoats he affected. It is a 
curious fact that these unusual and slightly absurd garments were 
worn by prefects as a badge of office at the public school in Somerset 
where I boarded. From such irrelevant threads as these our intui¬ 
tions are woven. Moreover Thorpe, as leader of the Liberal Party, 
had an unmistakably prefectorial air about him which I mistrusted. 
It would be absurd to pretend that all prefects at my school were 
hypocrites, sodomites or criminal psychopaths, but enough of them 
seemed to have tendencies in one or more of those directions to put 





18 


THE LAST WORD 


me on my guard against anyone who retained the uniform and the 
mannerisms of a public school prefect in later life. For a long time it 
struck me as significant that none of those who seemed most con¬ 
vinced of Thorpe’s innocence - Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, 
Harold Evans, editor of th cSunday Times , Robert Edw’ards, editor 
of the Sunday Mirror , most devastatingly of all, Sir Joseph Cantley, 
the judge - had ever boarded at an English public school. 

Later, when I left the Spectator and became, for a time, political 
correspondent of the satirical scandal sheet Private Eye , I was not at 
all surprised to learn of a number of stories at the Eye alleging 
homosexual tendencies in Thorpe at some time in the past. Such 
tendencies seemed perfectly in keeping with his flamboyant, his¬ 
trionic manner, his double-breasted waistcoats and general air of a 
public school show-off. 

These stories, as I say, occasioned neither surprise nor shock. So 
far as they were of any interest to a newspaper like Private Eye , it 
was for their joke value. The source for many of them was Tom 
Driberg, the slightly sinister left-wing Labour MP for Barking who, 
shortly before his death, was created Lord Bradwell. Among what I 
feel may have been his many and various undercover activities, Tom 
composed an indecent crossword for Private Eye , and acted as 
unpaid informant on the homosexual establishment in Westminster 
and Whitehall. Few of his stories ever got into print, partly because 
they were defamatory and unprovable* partly because they were 
unreliable. Tom suffered from an illusion which is common among 
homosexuals, that all men would be homosexual if they were true to 
their natures, and that many more men are truer to their natures in 
this way than is generally supposed. Among those denounced by 
Tom Driberg to me as practising homosexuals were statesmen of 
much greater distinction than Mr Thorpe and who, I am almost 
sure, are completely innocent of any such behaviour. 

Even so, casting a jaundiced eye down the list of members of Her 
Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council which appears in 
Whitaker's Almanack , I have no difficulty in finding four, possibly 
five members who, I am reasonably sure, were practising homo¬ 
sexuals at the time of their appointment to the Privy Council - most 
of them when it was still illegal. The phenomenon of the crypto¬ 
homosexual or “closet queen” has always been a recognised feature 
of British public life. 

So the suggestion that Thorpe might have had homosexual tendencies 
at one time did not seem particularly remarkable. Kinsey records 
that thirty-seven per cent of all American males have a significant 


INTRODUCTION 


19 


homosexual experience at some stage in their lives, but among 
Englishmen who have attended all-male boarding schools, the 
proportion is almost certainly much higher. Just as distinguished old 
boys prefer to forget their youthful indiscretions, there is a tendency 
among Englishmen in public life to cover up for each other. 

Looking through my files for this period, I can trace only one 
occasion on which even an oblique reference was made to this 
tendency of Mr Thorpe. Whatever may be said for or against the 
British press, it does not regard gossip of this sort as news. When 
Norman Scott’s allegations of a homosexual relationship started 
arriving in the office of Private Eye , either in early 1973 or late 
1972, I remember reading them dutifully, but I did not attach any 
importance to them. As I remember, they arrived - from what 
source I do not know - as photocopies of a handwritten narrative. 
Essentially, this described what later became public property as 
Norman Scott’s evidence of alleged events at Mrs Ursula Thorpe’s 
house on the night of 8 November 1961 - his seduction and buggery 
by Jeremy Thorpe. Nobody in the office of Private Eye liked the 
story much - it was sordid without being particularly funny, its 
unsolicited appearance had a faint smell of blackmail, it was 
defamatory, unprovable and, above all, it was more than ten years 
old. I do not know whether I threw it away or someone else did, but 
there was no record of its existence when I came to look for it some 
eighteen months later. 

A further reason why Private Eye - and, for that matter, the 
whole of Fleet Street - decided to leave the story alone was that 
Thorpe had married, fathered a child and been widowed in the 
meantime and was, in fact, on the point of remarrying. A bachelor 
might have been fair game, but a reformed homosexual, whose only 
apparent crime was to have had an unfortunate affair with a neuro¬ 
tic many years earlier, was safe. I stress this point because it seems 
important. There was not the slightest danger to Thorpe that any 
newspaper in England was going to print Scott’s allegation. Most of 
them had been given an opportunity to do so, and had declined. 
Quite apart from the very real dangers of a libel action, the story 
simply was not news. Before the dog-shooting episode of 24 
October 1975, Scott’s story had also been presented to the Conser¬ 
vative Party whose chairman, Lord Carrington, had wisely decided 
to have nothing to do with it. Its outline was well known to the 
Liberal leadership; the press had had an opportunity to print it 
under court privilege, when Scott blurted it out at the inquest on his 
friend, Gwen Parry-Jones, in May 1972. In other words, although 



20 


THE LAST WORD 


Thorpe may not have realised it and Thorpe’s friend David Holmes 
(who would have pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to frighten 
Scott) certainly did not, Norman Scott did not present the slightest 
danger to the Liberal leader when the incident occurred which gave 
rise to the charge of conspiracy to murder. Scott was simply an 
embarrassment. 

In order to explain and emphasise this point, I will need to 
recapitulate the narrative of events. In November 1961 when 
Thorpe met and allegedly seduced Norman Scott (then called 
Josiffe), he was a foppish Liberal back-bench MP, a bachelor of 
thirty-two with homosexual tendencies. The affair, if such it was, or 
the close, even affectionate relationship, as one prefers, was over by 
the spring of 1963. In 1967 Thorpe was elected leader of the Liberal 
Party and in 1968, a bachelor of thirty-nine, he decided to marry. 
His bride, Caroline Allpass, was a pleasant, uncomplicated am¬ 
bitious girl, who bore him a son next year, in 1969, and was killed in 
a motor accident soon after the General Election of June 1970. At 
one time it was fashionable to suggest that she had committed 
suicide after a call from Scott, and that revenge might be a further 
motive behind the alleged murder conspiracy, but there is not a 
shred of evidence to suggest that she committed suicide. Scott spoke 
to her once on the telephone, some time earlier. Friends who saw 
her in the two weeks before her death describe her as being garrul¬ 
ous and discussing Scott’s allegations freely with people she met, 
possibly under mild sedation from Valium or some such prepara¬ 
tion, as many young women appear to be nowadays. On the day of 
her death Thorpe decided to take his infant son up with him in the 
train so that he could be in time for the opening of the new Parlia¬ 
ment, leaving Caroline Thorpe to drive from North Devon to 
London alone. About half-way there, approaching a roundabout, 
she crashed into a lorry. A witness at the inquest described her a few 
minutes before the crash as having a dazed appearance. There was 
nothing wrong with the car. It seems probable that she fell asleep at 
the wheel, or lost her concentration. 

This incident caused a great surge of sympathy for Thorpe. Not 
one to miss his moment, he built a monument to her memory in a 
wild corner of Exmoor and arranged for the Archbishop of Canter¬ 
bury to come down to North Devon by helicopter to bless it. At the 
time, I wrote a strong piece in the London Evening Standard urging 
him to take it down again on environmental grounds. The best 
monument to this blameless lady, I urged, would be to leave a little 
patch of Exmoor unspoiled in her memory. He chose to ignore my 



INTRODUCTION 


21 


advice and the monument to Caroline Thorpe stands to this day on 
Codden Hill, a permanent source of irritation to those of us who live 
in the region, and a permanent reminder of the former Liberal 
Member for North Devon. 

After this moment, my comments about the Liberal leader seem 
to have grown more austere. In 1973 Thorpe married Marion, first 
wife of Lord Harewood, a cousin of the Queen. This did not quite 
make him a member of the Royal Family, but the alliance seems to 
have done him no harm with the non-Conformist Liberal voters of 
North Devon, who returned him with a much increased majority. 
Commenting on the overall result of this election at the time, I 
wrote in Private Eye (March 1974) perhaps rather sourly: 

“The most disappointing result has been Jeremy Thorpe's success 
in North Devon. Thorpe was already conceited enough and now 
threatens to become one of the great embarrassments of politics. 
Soon I may have to reveal some of the things in my file on this 
revolting man.” 

I hope this tiny paragraph tucked away in a corner of Private Eye 
did not alarm him unduly. It was the only fruit of Norman Scott's 
unrelenting activities throughout this period. By chance my own 
home in Somerset is only a few miles from Thorpe’s constituency of 
North Devon. Scott had settled in North Devon some time before 
the February 1974 election, and was to be heard declaiming the 
account of his relationship with Thorpe in many of the pubs on 
Exmoor. I never heard him and to this day have never met him but 
various accounts of his behaviour had reached me. At that stage, it 
still did not seem a matter to take seriously. Apart from my little 
remark, the only way to measure the possible result of Scott’s 
presence in North Devon was that Thorpe’s majority increased 
from 369 in June 1970 to 11,072 in February 1974. 

Between the two General Elections of 1974, reports about Scott 
changed emphasis. From being the hunter, Scott had become the 
prey. There were stories of his being threatened by strong-arm men, 
beaten up in Barnstaple Market, of helicopters buzzing his cottage 
on Exmoor. One was not sure how much these stories should be 
credited - perhaps the Liberals of North Devon were striking back, 
perhaps some friends of Thorpe were trying to protect him, perhaps 
there was a more sinister conspiracy or perhaps Scott was imagining 
things. One awaited developments with some interest but without 
extravagant feelings of sympathy for either party. 

Just before the second General Election of 1974, I find I was 
advising readers of Private Eye to vote Liberal, on the grounds that 




22 


THE LAST WORD 


Ladbroke, the bookmaker, was offering 150 to one against a 
Liberal victory: 

“If enough of us put our votes where our money is we might make 
the killing of all time - even if this means having the absurd Jeremy 
Thorpe with his peculiar tastes and unsavoury habits as Prime 
Minister for a while.” 

Possibly as a result of this advice, voters deserted the Liberal 
Party in droves, and Thorpe found his North Devon majority 
reduced from 11,072 to 6,721. 

Thereafter all interest in Thorpe and his tangled affairs subsided 
until the night of 24 October 1975 when Scott was found on Porlock 
Moor in a terrified and hysterical state by a passing motorist, beside 
the corpse of his Great Dane bitch, Rinka, who had been shot 
through the head. Scott’s story was that he had been the victim of a 
murder attempt by a man whose gun had jammed. 

That was all I knew at the time. I knew nothing of Peter Bessell’s 
testimony, that Thorpe had been planning to kill Scott as long ago as 
1969.1 had never heard of David Holmes, Thorpe’s old friend and 
best man at Thorpe’s first wedding, named by the would-be hit man, 
Andrew Newton, as the person who had hired him to murder Scott. 
But it seemed to me that this apparent attempt to murder a man 
whom the Liberals found politically embarrassing lifted the Scott 
affair from being of minority, largely satirical interest, to being a 
matter of genuine public concern. At that time nobody who had 
followed the story doubted for a moment that Scott had been the 
victim of a murder attempt. Nobody imagined that anything useful 
could have been achieved by frightening him, particularly when we 
all saw the results of his fright on Porlock Moor. 

My local newspaper, the West Somerset Free Press , carried a fairly 
full account of what it called the Mystery of the Dog in a Fog. It even 
mentioned Norman Scott’s claim to be a friend of Jeremy Thorpe. 
But the West Somerset Free Press , whose area includes Porlock, is 
not much read outside Somerset. The Daily Express carried a rather 
cryptic report which nobody who did not know the full background 
to the case could have understood. I decided the press needed a 
little nudging, and wrote a paragraph in Private Eye , drawing atten¬ 
tion to the fact that a man (Newton) had been arrested in connec¬ 
tion with this incident. At last, it seemed that the story was going to 
break, whether the press establishment in London wanted it to or 
not. This is what I wrote in Private Eye for 12 December 1975: 

“West Somerset is buzzing with rumours of a most unsavoury 
description following reports in the West Somerset Free Press about 


INTRODUCTION 


23 


an incident which occurred recently on Exmoor. Mr Norman Scott, 
a thirty-five-year-old writer, of Combe Martin, North Devon, who 
claims to have been a great friend of Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal 
statesman, was found by an AA patrolman weeping beside the body 
of Rinka, his Great Dane bitch, which had been shot in the head. 

“Information about this puzzling incident has since been 
restricted, on Home Office orders, but a man arrested at London 
Airport on a firearms charge will be appearing before Minehead 
magistrates on 19 December, when we may learn more. 

“My only hope is that sorrow over his friend’s dog will not cause 
Mr Thorpe’s premature retirement from public life.” 

The one measurable result of all this was a paragraph in the 
Sunday Times for 14 March 1976. This was published two days 
before Newton’s trial in Exeter, on a charge of using a pistol with 
intent to endanger life. The same issue carried a front-page article 
by Jeremy Thorpe called “The Lies of Norman Scott.” The effect of 
both pieces was to discredit the testimony of Norman Scott as chief 
prosecution witness - “a man whose allegations are often demon¬ 
strably untrue” - and protect Thorpe - “a man whose word has 
proved reliable through a long career in public life,” The Insight 
enquiry team seemed to see a conspiracy between Private Eye and 
the West Somerset Free Press to blacken Thorpe’s name - “The 
ground had been well prepared by the stories in Private Eye and in 
the West Somerset Free Press.” 

This editorial intrusion by the Sunday Times had two results, the 
first of considerable importance. Peter Bessell read both pieces in 
California, and decided from that moment to be a witness for the 
prosecution. Not to put too fine a point on it, he changed sides. Since 
the case could almost certainly not have been brought without some 
direct evidence against Thorpe, one might say that the Sunday 
Times's efforts to protect Thorpe were directly responsible for his 
arrest and prosecution. Peter Bessell’s reasons for changing sides 
will be obvious to anyone who has read the two articles. In one, 
Thorpe denies any knowledge of Bessell’s payments made on his 
behalf to Scott, just as he denies any knowledge of Holmes’s pay¬ 
ment of £2,500 for the Bessell letters. In the other, it is suggested 
that these payments were made “very possibly in order to suppress 
information about his [Bessell’s] own business operations, not about 
anyone’s sexual peccadilloes.” 

Some weeks earlier, Holmes had persuaded Bessell to write an 
untruthful letter claiming to have been blackmailed by Scott. 
Bessell agreed to do so in order to help Thorpe on the understanding 


24 


THE LAST WORD 


that it would never be published. The idea was that the threat of 
prosecution for blackmail would inhibit Scott from his customary 
outburst against Thorpe during the Newton trial. In the event, the 
contents of the letter were released, leaving Bessell in an extremely 
delicate position. Somebody, after all, had apparently tried to mur¬ 
der Scott. Bessell withdrew his letter and within a few months was 
spilling out his story to the journalists Barrie Penrose and Roger 
Courtiour, as well as to any other journalists who would listen. 

The second result of the Sunday Times 's intrusion into the course 
of justice is much less important. It persuaded the author of this 
book to take a personal interest in the matter and not to let it drop 
until Scott’s allegations against Thorpe had been thoroughly aired 
and the circumstances of this apparent murder attempt had been 
fully investigated. 

Perhaps I should explain this personal reaction more fully as it 
must serve in part, also, as my apology for the book. Scott’s original 
allegations of a homosexual relationship with Thorpe struck me as 
intriguing but no more than that. If true, they could be used to point 
a moral or adorn a tale, reminding us of the essential frailty of the 
human condition, the absurdity of public life or whatever. Since 
they were unproven and possibly untrue, there was no reason why 
they should be broadcast to the nation; they might indeed, have 
caused injustice and mischief if they had been. They were of minor¬ 
ity interest, to be discussed and weighed among people (like the 
political correspondent of Private Eye) who are constantly assailed 
by “information” that such-and-such a prime minister is a Soviet 
agent, such-and-such a member of the Royal Family a violent 
psychotic, such-and-such a Cabinet minister is a pederast. But as 
soon as pistols were drawn and bullets started flying, the whole 
complexion of the matter changed. Previously there might have 
been honourable reasons for wishing to protect Thorpe. A sexual 
indiscretion, thirteen years old, is no reason for destroying a man’s 
political career unless one has other oblique.or disreputable reasons 
for wishing to see it destroyed. And Thorpe, as a party politician, 
was definitely less objectionable than most. But the intimidation - 
let alone attempted murder - of someone for political reasons was 
something entirely different, something new in British politics, and 
something which there could be no honourable reason for 
concealing. 

One was accustomed, as a journalist, to seeing important matters 
ignored by the press, sometimes out of laziness, sometimes out of 
ignorance, most often out of cowardice. Britain’s press laws, which 



INTRODUCTION 


25 


require journalists to prove the truth of any disparaging or 
defamatory statement, are the strictest in the free world, with the 
result that corruption and incompetence are seldom exposed in our 
press unless the police decide to prosecute, or unless the informa¬ 
tion comes out in court or Parliament for some other reason. Even 
then, the press frequently decides to ignore it. 

However, it was a new development, in my experience at any 
rate, to see newspapers enthusiastically throwing themselves 
behind a move to restrain further investigations into what looked, 
at this stage, very much like an attempted murder for political 
purposes. 

Other newspapers had decided that the matter needed further 
investigation than was permitted at Newton’s trial, where Scott was 
effectively restrained by prosecuting counsel, Mr Lewis Hawser 
QC. Mr Hawser probably felt Scott’s allegations were scurrilous 
and irrelevant, but I am not in his confidence. I did not meet him 
until a little later when he was acting for Sir James Goldsmith in 
Goldsmith’s attempts to close down Private Eye with a prosecution 
for criminal libel and sixty-four writs for civil libel. These appeared 
to have nothing to do with the Thorpe case although Goldsmith, a 
rich and ambitious grocer who befriended Harold Wilson’s personal 
secretary, Lady Falkender, was later named by the Sunday Express 
as the man who was paying Jeremy Thorpe’s legal expenses at the 
Old Bailey - a report he does not appear to have denied, although 
given the opportunity to do so. Later versions, which were con¬ 
firmed by Goldsmith’s lawyer, suggested he had paid £5,000 
towards the defence costs. 

What is certain is that Lady Falkender was a friend and supporter 
of Mr Thorpe at a time when Private Eye was leading the pack 
against him. At the same time as Sir James Goldsmith (as he became 
half-way through the case) was trying to close down Private Eye , 
Lady Falkender was involving herself in another equally curious 
enterprise. 

On 12 May 1976, only seven weeks after he mysteriously 
resigned as Prime Minister and two days after Thorpe’s resignation 
as Liberal leader, Harold Wilson received two BBC journalists, 
Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour in his home in Lord North 
Street, Westminster, and instructed them to expose a sinister South 
African plot to discredit Thorpe, with ramifications extending to 
right-wing elements in MI5, the domestic security service. 

On 9 March, only a week before his resignation as Prime Minister, 
Mr Wilson (as he was then) said in answer to a parliamentary 




26 


THE LAST WORD 


question that he had no doubt at all that there was “strong South 
African participation in recent activities relating to the leader of the 
Liberal Party.” He suspected “very strong and heavily financed 
private masterminding of certain political operations.” He told the 
reporters of his suspicions that these same South African agents had 
been involved with right-wingers in MI5 to smear himself and Lady 
Falkender as Soviet agents. He suspected that both Downing Street 
and his home in Great Missenden had been bugged and revealed 
that he had asked a friend of Lady Falkender, Sir James Goldsmith, 
to deal with the matter. 

Lady Falkender, as recounted in their excellent book The 
Pencourt File , took over the job of keeping in touch with the two 
reporters, whose investigations, far from implicating South 
Africans or MI5 right-wingers in a plot to smear Thorpe, eventually 
turned up what proved to be the skeleton of the prosecution case 
against Jeremy Thorpe on the charges of conspiracy and incitement 
to murder. Suggestions that there had been an attempt by MI5 to 
smear Lady Falkender, and through her Sir Harold Wilson, as 
Soviet agents remain unexplained to this day. So, to a large 
extent, do Wilson’s reasons for resigning when he did. Lady 
Falkender, I am happy to say, remains a close friend of the newly- 
knighted Sir James Goldsmith and was rumoured at one time 
to be considering an offer of employment in his Cavenham food 
empire. 

At this point the former Prime Minister and his Political Secret¬ 
ary drop out of the narrative. Lady Falkender described her motives 
to the two reporters as being a simple desire to protect Jeremy 
Thorpe from public disgrace. “That is why I tended to come to his 
rescue,” she said. “And so did Sir Harold. It was a gut reaction on 
his part, I am sure.”* The two reporters seem to have little doubt 
that the announcement of Wilson’s resignation was engineered by 
the Palace to coincide with the timing of Princess Margaret’s separa¬ 
tion from her husband, Lord Snowdon, thus taking the heat off the 
Royal couple. Whether there was any connexion between the tim¬ 
ing of these events and the opening of Newton’s trial in Exeter must 
remain a matter for conjecture. 

On 6 April 1977 Newton was released from prison and on 19 
October of that year the London Evening News printed his allega¬ 
tions of having been hired by a prominent member of the Liberal 
Party - David Holmes was not named - to murder Scott. The police 


• The Pencourt File , p. 177. 



INTRODUCTION 


27 


investigation was reopened. Throughout these police investigations 
an extraordinarily accurate account of them continued to appear in 
the magazine Private Eye , which had earlier been threatened with a 
prosecution for criminal libel by Thorpe’s lawyers - the editor, 
Richard Ingrams, printed their threat as a reader’s letter. In July 
1978, after an article headed “The Ditto Man” which described 
how Thorpe was refusing to answer any questions, a writ was 
received. On 4 August, Thorpe, Holmes and two others were for¬ 
mally charged with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott. Thorpe 
alone was later charged with inciting Holmes to murder him. I 
immediately started making arrangements to write a book about the 
trial. 

On 20 November 1978 committal proceedings opened in 
Minehead Magistrates’ Court, less than twenty miles from my home 
in West Somerset, and within the area of the alleged murder 
attempt on Porlock Hill. Demand for seats at the hearing was 
enormous, and I was fortunate in securing one by virtue of having 
applied early. The Sunday Times was not so lucky, and had to hire a 
lawyer to threaten proceedings before it secured a seat. At the time, 
everybody supposed that reporting would be forbidden, but on the 
application of one of the defendants, George Deakin (who 
explained that he had nothing to hide), reporting restrictions were 
lifted. Thorpe’s solicitor, Sir David Napley, later expressed satisfac¬ 
tion at this development, and used the occasion for a memorable 
performance as Thorpe’s advocate. For three weeks, the news¬ 
papers were full of lurid accounts of Crown allegations: from 
Norman Scott, how he had been buggered by Thorpe in Thorpe’s 
mother’s house, biting the pillow to prevent himself crying out in 
pain; from Peter Bessell, how he had been consulted by Thorpe 
about methods of murdering Scott and disposing of the body; from 
Andrew Newton, how he had been hired by Holmes to carry out the 
murder for £10,000; from Jack Hayward, how he had been asked by 
Thorpe for two sums of £10,000 each and sent them to Thorpe’s 
friend, Nadir Dinshaw, in the Channel Islands; from Mr Dinshaw, 
how Thorpe had instructed him to send the money to Holmes, and 
threatened him with exportation if he revealed this to the police. 

For most people these details came as a surprise. They knew that 
Thorpe was charged with attempting to procure the murder of 
Norman Scott, who claimed a homosexual relationship with him, 
but no more than that. 

No defence evidence is heard at these committal proceedings, 
whose only purpose is to decide whether the Crown has a prima 


28 


THE LAST WORD 


facie case for the defendants to answer. Defence counsel reserve 
their arguments for the trial, being concerned only to discredit the 
Crown witnesses and suggest there is no case to answer. They also 
have an opportunity, in this preliminary cross-examination of 
Crown witnesses, to discover the weakest points of the Crown case 
and establish, where possible, inconsistencies between evidence 
given in the magistrates’ court and evidence given later in the 
Crown Court. Many people expressed the opinion that a fair trial 
would be impossible now that the prosecution case was so well 
known in advance, but this had not been the experience of criminal 
courts, at any rate so far as the defendants’ chances of acquittal were 
concerned. For the general public, this early exposition of the 
Crown’s evidence meant that it had no surprise value when it was 
heard for the second time in the Old Bailey. At this stage, every¬ 
body was expecting a formidable defence to be mounted in the Old 
Bailey, with witnesses of the greatest eminence testifying to 
Thorpe’s good character and scores of others casting doubt on the 
reliability of the Crown case, especially the testimonies of Scott, 
Bessell and Newton. In the event this was not necessary, as the 
judge took it upon himself to destroy the good character of these 
three key witnesses without any evidence having been called. But 
nobody knew this at the time. After the magistrates had decided 
there was indeed a prima facie case for them all to answer, a certain 
thrill went round the tiny courtroom in Minehead when Thorpe, 
speaking for the first time since the hearing began, said, “I plead not 
guilty and will vigorously defend this matter.” 

This was on 13 December 1978. The trial, after various attempts 
to delay it, was planned to open on 30 April 1979. Before that date 
Mr Callaghan’s Labour Government was defeated on a vote of 
confidence and a General Election was called for 3 May. It was 
authoritatively claimed that Thorpe had promised David Steel, the 
new Liberal leader, to resign his seat if Scott’s allegations became 
public. In the event, he decided to stay put. It was said that he had 
also assured Mr Steel that he would not attend the Liberal Party 
Conference in the autumn of 1978, after being charged, but in the 
event he attended and monopolised it. Finally, he had promised not 
to stand for re-election until the case was over, but once again he 
changed his mind and announced himself the Liberal candidate for 
his old constituency of North Devon, with enthusiastic support from 
many Liberals in the area. 

First, it was necessary for him to have the trial delayed, since it 
might seriously cramp* his style if, while the other candidates in 



INTRODUCTION 


29 


North Devon were parading themselves at the hustings, he was 
confined to the dock at the Old Bailey on charges involving an 
attempted murder. Moreover, the reporting of the trial might not 
have helped his chances of re-election. Accordingly, the Lord Chief 
Justice of England was persuaded to grant him a deferment until 8 
May, despite objections from two of his co-defendants. 

On 14 April I wrote my weekly article in the Spectator complain¬ 
ing about this - it seemed wrong that he should be treated differ¬ 
ently from any other alleged criminal - and complaining about the 
behaviour of certain Liberals in North Devon and at the Liberal 
Conference in Southport, who had insisted on treating him as a hero 
ever since he had been accused of conspiracy to murder. It was one 
thing to observe the principle of English law that a man is innocent 
until proved guilty, but another principle of English law, on which 
the whole of our oppressive libel law is founded, insists that a man’s 
reputation suffers in the estimate of right-minded people if he is 
publicly accused of reprehensible behaviour, let alone a serious 
crime. The magistrates had decided that a prima facie case existed 
against him, which he had yet to answer, and the cheering Liberals 
of North Devon and Southport seemed to be showing contempt 
both for the legal process and for the electoral system by demon¬ 
strating that they were not right-minded citizens. 

There was a strong undercurrent of morally uninformed opinion 
at this time which held that even if Thorpe was guilty of conspiring 
to murder Norman Scott, he was right to do so since the man was a 
blackmailer. It seemed to me that where this mistaken view 
threatened to become the consensus, those in a position to do so had 
a certain duty to resist it, however ineffectually. Although not by 
nature a political person, I agreed to the suggestion of Mr Richard 
Ingrams that I should stand in North Devon against Mr Thorpe as 
Private Eye’s candidate in the Dog Lovers’ interest. This was plainly 
a reference to the murdered Great Dane and caused a little ripple of 
embarrassment among the more enthusiastic supporters of Jeremy 
Thorpe. 

The gesture involved me in one or two unscrupulous political 
accommodations, like affecting a greater interest in doggies gener¬ 
ally, and a greater concern for the endangered doggies of North 
Devon in particular, than I naturally felt. I remember also speaking 
to a reporter on Gay News who enquired about my attitude to Gay 
Dogs and assuring him of my compassionate attitude to the prob¬ 
lems of homosexuality among dogs, while secretly feeling they 
ought to be whipped. 


30 


THE LAST WORD 


Two weeks later, in the Spectator of 28 April 1979,1 published 
my adoption meeting address, explaining that it had been com¬ 
posed and delivered in a bathroom at my home in Combe Florey, 
Somerset. Various copies were sent out to local and national news¬ 
papers, but only the Guardian printed it. One of the local 
North Devon newspapers thoughtfully gave its copy to the Liberal 
agent in North Devon, Mrs Lilian Prowse, who showed it to Mr 
Thorpe, with results which soon became apparent. Here is the 
adoption meeting address in full, as it appeared in the Spectator : 


CITIZENS OF BARNSTAPLE AND 
VOTERS OF NORTH DEVON 

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking I offer myself as your 
Member of Parliament in the General Election on behalf of the 
nation’s dog lovers to protest about the behaviour of the Liberal 
Party generally and the North Devon Constituency Liberal 
Association in particular. Their candidate is a man about whose 
attitude to dogs - not to mention his fellow human beings - little 
can be said with any certainty at the present time. 

But while it is one thing to observe the polite convention that a 
man is innocent until proven guilty, it is quite another thing to 
take a man who has been publicly accused of crimes which would 
bring him to the cordial dislike of all right-minded citizens and 
dog lovers, and treat him as a hero. 

Before Mr Thorpe has had time to establish his innocence of 
these extremely serious charges, he has been greeted with claps, 
cheers and yells of acclamation by his admirers in the Liberal 
Party, both at the National Conference in Southport and here in 
the constituency. I am sorry but I find this disgusting. 

I invite all the electors of North Devon, but especially the more 
thoughtful Liberals and dog lovers to register their disquiet by 
voting for me on 3 May and I sincerely hope that at least fifty 
voters in this city will take the opportunity to do so. 

Genesis XVIII 26: And the LORD said If I find in Sodom fifty 
righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their 
sakes. 


INTRODUCTION 


31 


1 Samuel XXIV 14: After whom dost thou pursue? after a dead 
dog, after a flea. 

Rinka is NOT forgotten. Rinka lives. Woof, woof. Vote Waugh 
to give all dogs the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of 
happiness. 

No sooner had the Guardian article appeared than I received a 
telephone call from a journalist in London. He congratulated me on 
a great battle I had just won before the Lord Chief Justice and two 
other judges in the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court. I replied that I 
knew nothing about it. It seemed that Mr Jeremy Thorpe through 
his counsel, Mr George Carman QC, had sought an injunction to 
ban my election address and commit me to prison for contempt of 
court on the grounds that it might prejudice a jury at Thorpe’s 
subsequent trial. The Lord Chief Justice, in his wisdom, had refused 
to do anything of the sort. Knowing nothing of this move, I could 
only conjecture that Thorpe’s motives might have been more con¬ 
cerned with the voters of North Devon than with jurors at the Old 
Bailey. Asked for a comment, I said that the Divisional Court’s 
decision restored my faith in British justice, and suggested that 
things would have come to a pretty pass if alleged criminals could 
not only stand for Parliament, but send any opponents to prison 
who mentioned this circumstance. 

I was celebrating this great victory quietly when the telephone 
rang again, about an hour later. Mr Thorpe had taken the Divisional 
Court’s decision to appeal and been awarded his injunction by 
Lord Denning, sitting with two appeal judges. Next day Lord 
Denning listened to arguments hastily put together by counsel on 
my behalf and dismissed them with contumely, saying he had been 
reading my column in Private Eye and had no doubt that my motives 
in standing for Parliament were improper. Mr George Carman QC, 
enlarging on his client’s case, said that two points at issue were who 
shot the dog Rinka and whether or not there had been a homosexual 
relationship with Norman Scott, both of which were hotly disputed, 
and both prejudiced by the election address. In point of fact, there 
was never any doubt about who had shot the dog - Andrew Newton 
- and when it came to trial Mr Carman conceded that his client was a 
man of homosexual tendencies at the relevant time, even though he 
continued to deny that Thorpe had ever exercised these tendencies 
on Norman Scott, who was not mentioned in the address. Nor did 
anyone at the trial deny for a moment that the dog was shot - with or 


32 


THE LAST WORD 


without Mr Thorpe’s connivance - in order to assist the Liberal 
cause and Liberal candidate in North Devon. But it is an unattrac¬ 
tive and otiose occupation to moan about judicial decisions which 
have gone against one. Lord Denning, one of the greatest and best 
judges we have ever had, plainly thought the Dog Lovers’ candida¬ 
ture in bad taste, when he said it was as “plain as plain can be” that 
the election address might prejudice Thorpe’s trial, and was not 
prepared to consider the view that the Liberal’s candidature was in 
even worse taste. The most interesting aspect of this episode, from 
my own point of view, was not so much that as a parliamentary 
candidate I now faced the electorate without an election address or 
any explanation of why I was standing - under the circumstances, it 
was a great tribute to North Devon Dog Lovers that seventy-nine of 
them were prepared to abdicate their democratic right of choosing a 
government by voting for me - but that Thorpe had overcome his 
handicaps. One began to take the measure of the enormous sym¬ 
pathy for this ex-barrister, ex-Oxford man, among his own kind. 

But he did not do so at the election. At half past three in the 
morning of 4 May 1979 he learned that the seat he had won from the 
Conservatives in 1959 - the only Conservative loss in that election - 
was lost on a huge swing away from him. In February 1974, Thorpe 
received 34,052 votes to give him a majority of 11,072 over his 
Conservative opponent. By the General Election of October that 
year, his vote had sunk to 28,209 and his majority to 6,721. In May 
1979, he received only 23,338 votes, and his Conservative oppo¬ 
nent was elected to Parliament on a majority of 8,473 with 31,811 
votes. The rag, tag and bobtail of “fringe” party candidates - 
Labour, Ecology, National Front, English National, Dog Lovers, 
Wessex Regionalist and Democratic Monarchist Public Safety 
White Regionalist, in that order, made no noticeable difference to 
the result, all of them losing their deposits of £150. 

To many, the most remarkable factor in this election result was 
that 23,338 voters were prepared to cast their votes for a man living 
under the cloud of a serious criminal charge. One will never know 
what proportion of that number was demonstrating its belief in his 
innocence and what proportion was demonstrating its continued 
support for him whether he was guilty or not. In the first instance the 
voters would appear to cast doubt on general beliefs about the effect 
of bad publicity; in the second, one can only draw one’s own 
conclusions about the moral climate in North Devon, and possibly 
in the country at large. 

The most interesting aspect may be that he lost only 5,000 votes as a 




INTRODUCTION 


33 


result of the intense publicity given the committal proceedings in 
Minehead. There can be no doubt that he had a large personal 
following in North Devon, but the important point is that it was not 
quite large enough. His gamble had not paid off. 

A few years earlier, Thorpe had been named in a report by 
Department of Trade inspectors dealing with the collapsed fringe 
bank London and County Securities, from which he had been 
drawing £5,000 a year as non-executive director. The post 
appeared to carry no duties, although £5,000 a year was a substan¬ 
tial salary then, being considerably more than an MP’s salary when 
he joined the bank in 1971. The inspectors suggested that the 
collapse of the bank 

“must remain a cautionary tale for a leading politician. For unless 
he is properly informed of the affairs of the company he joins, he 
cannot make his own judgment on the propriety of its trans¬ 
actions; and he is liable to be reminded . . . that his reputation is 
not only his most marketable, but also his most vulnerable 
commodity.” 

Oddly enough, Mr Thorpe’s reputation did not seem to have 
suffered in the least. He remained as leader of the Liberal Party 
without difficulty, with an ever more important role in the conduct 
of public affairs as the Labour Government’s hold on Parliament 
grew weaker. It did not prevent the judge at the end of his trial 
referring to all four defendants as men of “unblemished reputation” 
even though there had been no evidence on this point in the case of 
two of them, and one had a prison record. But Thorpe’s defeat in 
North Devon did appear to leave a mark. By whatever rash exercise 
in optimism he had persuaded himself that he could hold the seat, 
his failure to do so plainly came as a grave shock. He still wore an air 
of dazed surprise when he took his seat in the dock of Number One 
Court at the Old Bailey four days later on Tuesday 8 May 1979 for a 
trial which was expected to last up to three months and had already 
been billed as the Trial of the Century. 





















1 

Is it Fair, Right and Just? 


Day one: 8 May 1979 

“Linda Binns,” cried the courts administrator. Or possibly it was an 
usher, or high sherriff, or Deputy Constable of the Tower of London. 
A middle-aged woman with grey hair detached herself from the 
press of potential jurymen standing at the back of the court. In 
answer to the judge’s question, she assured the court that she had 
never read a book called The Pencourt File by Barrie Penrose and 
Roger Courtiour, or another called The Thorpe Committal by Peter 
Chippindale and David Leigh. Since the abolition of property 
qualifications for jurors, and apart from being on the voters’ list and aged 
between eighteen and sixty-five, this was the only qualification she 
required to sit in judgment on her four fellow citizens accused of 
conspiracy to murder Norman Scott; one of whom, the Right Honour¬ 
able John Jeremy Thorpe, was also accused of inciting another to 
murder him. In due course, Linda Binns took her place in the jury 
box and swore by Almighty God that she would faithfully try the 
several issues between her Sovereign Lady the Queen and the 
prisoners at the bar. 

The four prisoners at the bar remained standing for twenty 
minutes while the jury was sworn. Thorpe, having made what was to 
prove his only contribution to the entire proceedings when he 
answered “Not guilty’’ to the question “What say you, Thorpe, are 
you guilty or not guilty?”, watched the jurors closely as, one by one, 
those who had no objection to serving in such a long trial denied that 
they had read either of the books in question and took their places in 
the jury box. 

“Debora Stevens.” 

“David Greenberg.” 

Suddenly there was a bellow of “Challenge” from Denis Cowley 
QC, counsel for John Le Mesurier. David Greenberg, a quiet, tidy, 
bearded man with the studious air of the professional class, stood 
down. In all, four jurors were objected to - three as inscrutably as 
Mr Greenberg, a fourth on the probable grounds that he raised 


36 


THE LAST WORD 


objections to trying the case with the judge, who over-ruled them. 

“Peter Hattart.” 

“Alan B. Sturrock.” 

“Frederick Fee.” 

“Kevin Neagle.” 

“Harold Walker ” 

“Henry Smith.” 

“Michael J. Window.” 

“David R. Forrard.” 

“John M. Haskell.” 

“Celia Kettle-Williams.” (Later chosen as foreman of the jury.) 

Twelve anonymous faces. All capable of voting and no doubt 
holding political opinions - whether those were their real names, or 
just what their names sounded like, is something we shall never 
know. No sooner were they sworn than the judge reminded the 
sixty-nine pressmen in court not to make any contact with them. 

“Never ask them questions, interview them or anything else. If I 
find anyone who has in any way interfered with a member of the jury 
I’ll bring him back here and punish him. Better bring a toothbrush 
here with you if you are going to do that.” 

No sooner were the jurors sworn than George Carman QC, for Mr 
Thorpe, said that he wished to make legal submissions in the jury’s 
absence. They filed out again, being told by the judge that they could 
take the rest of the day off. Their moment of individual identity had 
passed and we did not hear from Celia Kettle-Williams again until the 
last day of the trial, when, like Jeremy Thorpe on the first, she answered 
“Not guilty” to each of the five questions put to her. 

Thorpe was met on his arrival for the first day of the trial by the 
keeper of the Old Bailey, Mr Jack Gamble, who ushered him and 
his wife into a lift. Thereafter, he disappeared from view into the 
various small rooms of the Old Bailey reserved for defence consul¬ 
tations. It was only while he was in the dock of Number One Court 
that he had to act out the slightly embarrassing charade of being a 
prisoner at the bar, charged with conspiring to commit a cowardly 
and contemptible murder in order to protect his reputation as a 
statesman and national figure. His mother, Mrs Ursula Thorpe, sat in 
court to give him strength. She never wore a monocle or a bowler hat, 
as she was rumoured to do, and seemed in many respects a less 
formidable presence than the tiny, doll-like figure of Thorpe’s 
second wife, Marion. A pianist by calling, Marion Stein had been for 
many years the friend of Benjamin Britten, the composer, after 
marrying the Queen’s cousin, Lord Harewood, as his first wife in 



IS IT FAIR, RIGHT AND JUST? 


37 


1949. Her robust championship of her second husband’s right not to 
answer questions about his sex life had silenced a press conference 
called by Thorpe in October 1977 to discuss this very subject, and her 
presence had a steady, depressing influence over the press benches 
throughout the trial. 

Before starting on his legal submission, Mr Carman said he was 
going to request that two journalists be ordered to leave the court, 
Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour. His grounds for this were that 
“they may be potential witnesses.” Mr Taylor, for the Crown, 
hastened to assure the court that he had no intention of calling 
them, but Mr Carman stood his ground. In retrospect, since Mr 
Carman called no witnesses at all for the defence, let alone choosing 
to subpoena potentially hostile witnesses, this initiative might be 
mistakenly seen as vindictive, since it was the painstaking research 
of these two journalists in The Pencourt File which revealed the bare 
bones of the Crown case some considerable time before any of the 
defendants were arrested. At very least it shows how defence tactics 
changed during the course of the trial - and this, too, is odd, since 
the prosecution sprang no surprises and confronted defence counsel 
with nothing of any importance which they had not already heard 
and seen in Minehead. 

These two gentlemen had been in very close contact with Mr 
Peter Bessell, the chief Crown witness, and should not be in court 
while submissions were made about him, said Mr Carman. After vari¬ 
ous sarcastic comments about how much money they were alleged 
to have made from their book, they were ordered to leave and this 
order was later extended to exclude them from listening to the 
evidence of Bessell, Scott and Newton, although by then reporting 
restrictions had been lifted and they could read a full account in any 
newspaper. 

But legal submissions, being made in the absence of the jury, 
were not allowed to be reported, so the British public was unable 
to learn, at the time, what followed. This proved to be Thorpe’s last 
attempt to exclude the evidence of the Crown’s most inconvenient 
witness, Peter Bessell. 

Bessell, it transpired, had signed a contract with the Sunday 
Telegraph for the serialisation of a book he proposed to write. In 
part, it would deal with the case, and the Sunday Telegraph had 
stipulated that if they were unable to print the book for legal reasons 
they would pay only half the proposed fee of £50,000 for a series of 
background articles in its place. This was interpreted as meaning 
that if Thorpe was acquitted, the libel risks would become too great 


38 


THE LAST WORD 


and Bessell would lose £25,000. In other words, he had a direct 
financial interest in securing a conviction. 

“My lord, there could not be a more scandalous situation,” said 
Mr Carman, than where a witness was hoping to make money out of his 
evidence. The contract must be seen either as a contempt of court or as a 
conspiracy to pervert the course of j ustice, possibly both, and if the j udge 
allowed Bessell to give evidence under these circumstances, he would be 
endorsing a continuing contempt of court. 

One began to feel that Mr Carman was pitching his case a little 
too high when the judge interrupted, at quite an early stage, to say 
that if Mr Carman had a contempt of court to report he would have 
to take it to the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court. “I’ve got enough 
to try,” said the judge. 

But Mr Carman ploughed on. An immunity from prosecution 
given to Mr Bessell in respect of anything which might transpire 
except his own perjury meant that he was immune from prosecution 
for either contempt or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, he 
claimed. 

“I submit that the giving of evidence by Mr Bessell is an abuse of 
the process of the court. Your lordship’s jurisdiction should, if not 
require, compel you to forbid it.” 

His lordship was beginning to show signs of irritation. Should he 
exclude in advance the evidence of defence witnesses on similar 
grounds, he asked, where there was suspicion of a conspiracy to 
pervert the court of justice? If so, the law would be an ass. Perhaps 
seeing that the argument was going against him, Mr Carman uttered 
what can only, in retrospect, be seen as a slightly bizarre threat. If 
Bessell were allowed to give evidence, he said, he (Mr Carman) 
planned to keep him in the witness-box for a week while he cross- 
examined him on this point of his contract with the Sunday 
Telegraph . 

Later, with the support of Mr Mathew, for Holmes, and Mr 
Williams, for Deakin, Mr Carman added that everything he had said 
about Bessell’s evidence applied to Scott and Newton (the witness 
who would claim to have been hired to murder Scott). At 
Minehead, said Mr Carman, Newton had told the magistrates that 
he had no other source of income apart from what he hoped to make 
by selling his story to newspapers and television. The judge at this 
point prompted him, saying rather disconcertingly that Newton 
hoped to milk the case for all it was worth. This interjection reas¬ 
sured those following the case that the judge had read what had 
been sent up to him from Minehead, but it was also the first 



IS IT FAIR, RIGHT AND JUST? 


39 


indication of what would later emerge as a strong line. The judge 
disapproved very strongly of anybody making money from the case 
- apart, of course, from the lawyers, many of whom were making far 
more money than any witness could possibly hope to make. 

It is to Mr Carman’s credit that he spotted this tendency on the 
judge’s part at a very early stage. In fact, Mr Carman did not keep 
Bessell in the witness-box for more than two and a half days. This 
was only the first of several hints at an elaborate and prolonged 
defence performance which somehow never materialised. One 
wondered, at times, whether he was not under some pressure - from 
instructing solicitors, perhaps, or from Mr Thorpe, who was 
rumoured to be directing his own defence, or even from Sir James 
Goldsmith, later rumoured to be paying for it - to shorten the 
proceedings as much as possible. But no such pressure, one would 
guess, had been brought to bear at this stage. 

Mr Carman was a contemporary of Thorpe at Oxford. His prac¬ 
tice was in the Northern circuit, where he had established the 
reputation of a competent performer in difficult criminal cases. 
After this sticky beginning, his relations with the judge seems to 
improve. His greatest strength was not in his set speeches, where he 
often struck the wrong note, but in his apparently sympathetic 
cross-examination of Crown witnesses whose credibility he 
intended to destroy. His manner on these occasions was seldom that 
of the bully, more that of a friendly doctor with a hopeless 
psychiatric problem on his hands. 

Mr John Mathew, who appeared for Holmes, was the son of a 
former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Theobald Mathew. 
Educated by the Jesuits at Beaumont, he made his reputation as 
leading Crown counsel at the criminal bar before branching out into 
more lucrative private practice. His method of cross-examination - 
contemptuous, disdainful, vaguely abstracted-seemed more effec¬ 
tive at Minehead Magistrates’ Court than it was at the Old Bailey, 
where he had made his reputation. Perhaps the mantle of prosecut¬ 
ing counsel still attached to him. He could never win a jury on 
grounds of pity. He did not even seem much interested in the appeal 
to honest doubt. It was essential to his approach that the prosecu¬ 
tion witnesses should seem the greater villains. Since he was 
prepared to acknowledge his client’s culpability of conspiracy to 
frighten - a serious enough criminal charge, carrying penalties less 
severe only than those for conspiracy to murder - this should be 
seen as a major feat. 

Mr Denis Cowley, for John Le Mesurier, a carpet merchant in 


40 


THE LAST WORD 


North Wales whose involvement was never fully-established, 
lacked the opportunity to deploy his fine, loud voice or superior 
manner to best advantage. Such evidence as there was against his 
client referred only to events after the incident on Porlock Moor, 
when the conspiracy, if it ever existed, came to an end. Mr Cowley 
plainly hoped to get his client off on this ingenious technicality - 
nobody disputed that Le Mesurier had handed over the money to 
Newton in payment of the contract - but in the end such subtlety 
was unnecessary as the jurors plainly decided that they were not 
sure that a conspiracy to murder had been established. 

Mr Gareth Williams for George Deakin, a North Wales club 
owner who introduced Newton to Holmes, was the most colourful 
of the four defence counsel. For the moment, he confined himself 
to suggesting that Bessell and Newton were so tainted that one 
would normally expect a record of the case to be sent to the Director 
of Public Prosecutions. Not on this occasion, of course, because of 
Mr Bessell’s immunity. On Mr Williams’s thin Welsh lips the word 
was made to sound like some nauseating upper-class privilege, 
awarded to the former MP as a means of persecuting his client, a 
simple working man who had nothing to hide. Mr Williams never 
tried to disguise his contempt for the manoeuvres of Jeremy Thorpe 
- his refusal to answer questions at the police investigation, his 
friendship with Home Secretaries and Prime Ministers, his ultimate 
refusal to give evidence in his own defence. 

Mr Peter Taylor, the leading Crown counsel, now rose to answer 
the defence submissions. He quoted the £20,000 reward offered for 
information leading to the conviction of Jack the Ripper. It would 
be absurd and unjust if a case could not be brought because the 
evidence had been invalidated by the very means which brought it 
to light. In any case, the magistrates at Minehead had already heard 
all these objections and committed the defendants for trial despite 
them. The judge was being asked to dismantle the entire Crown 
case, since without these three witnesses there would be no trial. It 
was a function of the jury, not the judge, to decide whether their 
evidence was capable of belief or not. Mr Taylor doubted whether 
the judge had discretion to exclude these witnesses even if he 
wished to do so. 

The suggestion that he might not have discretion appeared to 
annoy his lordship, and Mr Taylor hastened to add that it was 
mistaken to suppose that Mr Bessell’s immunity covered contempt 
of court, since the court had its own jurisdiction on the matter. The 
immunity merely covered police prosecution, which was not 


IS IT FAIR, RIGHT AND JUST? 


41 


necessary where contempt was concerned. The judge appeared 
mollified, happy that his power to rattle toothbrushes was not 
threatened, but defence counsel had not wasted this opportunity, in 
the absence of the jury, to throw dirt at the main prosecution 
witnesses. One will never know how much this contributed towards 
the judge’s subsequent attitude towards them, or whether he had 
already made up his mind on this point from his scrutiny of the 
proceedings at Minehead. 

Mr Carman intervened to remind the court that Scott and 
Newton had both appointed literary agents; these two witnesses, 
neither of previous literary experience, were now writing books. All 
three were using the court - Mr Justice Cantley’s court - as a vehicle 
for their commercial success. Newton had said at Minehead, as the 
judge had already reminded us, “This case is the only source of 
income I have. I have resolved to milk it as hard as I can.” Bessell 
had said, “I have lied to many people on many occasions. I have a 
credibility problem.” And Bessell, Mr Carman reminded the judge, 
had a strong financial interest in conviction. 

When I heard this admission at Minehead, I judged it to be part of 
a plea from Mr Bessell that he should be believed on this occasion. 
Nearly all the lies he had told - apart from a few commercial ones - 
had been in order to protect his friend and colleague, Jeremy 
Thorpe. The judge, as subsequent events proved, took any such 
admission as an invitation to disbelieve him now. As the judge had 
acerbically remarked earlier, when called upon to take account of 
the whole course of justice, “I am only trying this case.” The course 
of justice could look after itself. It may be that in his anxiety to do 
justice to Mr Thorpe and respect the assumption of innocence 
which all defendants enjoy, he was going to do less than justice to 
Mr Bessell who was not, of course, on trial. 

Perhaps Mr Taylor began to realise at this stage, on the first day of 
the trial, what an uphill task he would have to convince the judge of 
his witnesses’ credibility. Mr Taylor is a handsome, blunt man, with 
a fine Roman profile. The son of a doctor, he went to Newcastle 
Grammar School before being taken on an exhibition to Pembroke 
College, Cambridge. Well-mannered and moderate in tone, he 
spoke the beautiful, plain English of an educated man - civilised, 
humorous, only occasionally indignant. His manner seemed to 
apologise for the role in which fate had cast him: it was distressing to 
have to take sides, he would have been happier as a judge. But there 
was no doubt in his mind of the defendants’ guilt, and he confidently 
expected all right-minded men to share this perception. His 


42 


THE LAST WORD 


witnesses may not, individually, have been very impressive, but he 
seemed to feel that the cumulative effect of their evidence was 
unanswerable. The only thing which moved him to indignation was 
when he described what he saw as Thorpe’s attempts to fix the 
record and muzzle his witnesses. The alleged crime itself did not 
seem to affront him so much. Certainly he never managed to inspire 
the judge with an awareness of its gravity, except to the extent that it 
made Thorpe less likely to have committed it. Perhaps it was his 
well-mannered approach which persuaded the judge, at the end of 
the day, that if the jurors were to convict they would do so “sadly.” Or 
perhaps he was merely responding to an obvious reluctance on the 
part of the judge. Nothing in the judge’s previous experience, it 
would appear, had prepared him to suppose that a public figure of 
such unblemished character as Mr Thorpe would be capable of such 
wicked acts. 

The court rose while Mr Taylor was still on his feet. Events 
overnight were to reveal the watchfulness of Thorpe’s defence team 
and their determination not to miss a trick, where any lapses by “ the 
media” were concerned. 


Day two: 9 May 1979 

Before Mr Taylor could resume his reply to Mr Carman’s sub¬ 
mission, in the absence of the jury, that the three key witnesses 
should be excluded, Mr Carman rose to his feet and said that three 
things had occurred overnight which he wished to draw to the 
judge’s attention. 

In the first place, he said, a bulletin on BBC Television’s Nine 
o’clock News had referred to the legal submissions as being 
intended to exclude prosecution evidence. “That may not be a 
terrible thing,” said Mr Carman, “but. . .” 

The judge interrupted: “That is a matter of fact... it did occur to 
me that you might welcome that.” 

Mr Carman replied that he did not wish to be over-critical. He 
was merely bringing it to the court’s attention to see whether it was 
desirable. 

His next complaint was that on BBCs Tonight programme there 
had been a discussion of various legal matters involved in the case 
by Professor Michael Zander, of the London School of Economics. 
In the course of it Professor Zander, mentioning Bessell’s immun¬ 
ity, had referred to him as a “key witness.” Reminding the judge 
that he had spent much of the previous day submitting that Mr 


IS IT FAIR, RIGHT AND JUST? 


43 


Bessell should not be allowed as a witness, Mr Carman said it was 
“really rather damaging'’ to have public debate on this matter, 
adding, no doubt for the especial benefit of the judge, “Questions of 
law are solely for your lordship.” 

The judge revealed that he had watched the programme, too, and 
could see nothing improper in it. “I will tell the jury in due course to 
take the law from me and not from Professor Zander.” 

The third complaint was more serious. From a report in the 
previous day’s Evening News it appeared that Mr Bessell had been 
giving a press conference outside the courtroom. Mr Carman 
handed a copy of the newspaper to the judge. It contained the 
words, “Outside the court the walnut-faced Mr Peter Bessell held 
the floor.” The judge instructed that Bessell be brought before him. 
Melodramatically, Mr Carman interposed to say that nobody was to 
tell Mr Bessell what he was wanted for. 

When the walnut-faced former MP arrived - this was the first the 
judge had seen of him - he was asked to stand in the well of the court 
and explain himself. Mr Bessell, looking surprisingly self-possessed, 
replied in his strange, laryngophonous accents, a sort of tinny 
gurgle, as if he were reading a prepared reply to some parliamentary 
question: 

“Before the proceedings started yesterday morning, my lord, one 
reporter came to me and asked me whether I still drank as many 
cups of tea as I used to. I said ‘Yes’ and that was the extent of the 
conversation as I recall it.” 

That, indeed was as much as the newspaper had reported, and the 
interview took place before the start of the trial. What was surpris¬ 
ing was the fierceness with which the judge now warned him against 
talking to the press or anyone else: 

“If I find anything that amounts to tampering with evidence not 
only would the person that sought to tamper be in danger, you might 
even be in danger yourself. Be careful.” 

From his manner, the judge plainly saw Bessell as a threat to the 
dignity of the court and an obstacle to the course of justice - and this 
was before the wretched man had given any evidence at all. 

In raising the matter, Mr Carman explained his motive: ‘I would 
not like it to be thought in public that Mr Thorpe is in some way 
anti-press, or opposed to proper reporting of the trial. The constant 
anxiety is whether there can be interference or impropriety.” 

Whatever Mr Carman would or would not like to be thought in 
public, few pressmen present were in any doubt about his reasons 
for raising these matters. None of the journalists I spoke to 


44 


THE LAST WORD 


afterwards could remember an occasion on which the toothbrushes 
had been rattled so blatantly. 

Submissions resumed 

Mr Taylor said he could think of hundreds of reasons why Bessell, 
Scott and Newton should not be excluded by virtue of inducements 
they had received from the press. What about common informers? 
A judge could not stop evidence even if he thought the witness was 
lying. Now he was being asked to stop evidence even before it was 
given. 

“It is a novel, dangerous and wrong proposition that your lord- 
ship has any discretion to do that,” Mr.Taylor cried. 

At the time, I thought he was making a mistake. Mr Justice Cantley 
did not strike me as the sort of judge to be browbeaten by any 
suggestion of ultra vires . 

When Mr Taylor pointed out that every attempt that could be 
made, and some that should not have been made, had already been 
made to prevent Mr Bessell coming to England, the judge snapped 
at him: “That is prejudicial. It must not be reported.” 

Mr Taylor was referring to some earlier, unsuccessful attempts 
by Thorpe’s lawyers to have Mr Bessell’s evidence excluded by 
the Divisional Court, and also to attempts by Thorpe himself to 
persuade Mr Hayward, the Bahamas-based millionaire, to threaten 
Bessel! with bankruptcy proceedings if he returned to England to 
give evidence. But the judge’s interruption was nevertheless a 
curious one. There was no question of Mr Taylor’s remark being 
reported, as the arguments were being heard in the jury’s absence 
and nothing was being reported. 

Listening to Mr Taylor’s pleading it seemed inconceivable that 
any judge would stop the case in this way before it had begun. How 
could Mr Carman ever have entertained such a fatuous hope? Yet 
the pleadings continued well into the afternoon of the second day, 
ending only at 3.30 pm with a three sentence ruling from the judge. 

The interlude gave Mr Carman an opportunity to exercise his 
rhetorical skills in two ways. In the first, he appealed to the judge’s 
sympathy in a manner which might not have been calculated to appeal 
to the jury’s. In a finely modulated Shakespearean actor’s voice, he 
suggested that “because Mr Thorpe has known distinction, honour 
and fame, the ironic effect of this is that he is at a disadvantage.” 
Because of it, he said, prosecution witnesses were under improper 
pressure. “ We are saying this evidence should not be called because it 
is unfair and oppressive. Although the scales of justice at the top of this 


IS IT FAIR, RIGHT AND JUST? 


45 


building appear to be evenly balanced, in fact in a criminal case they are 
not. The court is more concerned to protect the innocent from 
wrongful conviction than it is to punish the wrongdoer. That is the basis 
of criminal law,” he said, adding that the categories of what might be 
considered unfair were not closed. 

The other function of this interlude, from the defence point of 
view, was simply to get in a little early dirt on the three main 
prosecution witnesses. Earlier, referring to a letter from Bessell to 
Lady Falkender - on the lawyers’ benches, we saw Sir Lionel 
Thompson, with a watching brief for Mr Hayward, Lady Falkender 
and Sir Harold Wilson suddenly take an interest - Mr Carman had 
described Bessell as a “combination of Uriah Heep and James 
Bond.” Now he laid into the Crown witness with a vengeance. He 
could not think of anything more repugnant to justice than that a case 
should rest on the evidence of two liars and a perjurer, all intent on 
milking the case. Both Bessell and Scott had admitted to telling lies in 
the past, and Newton admitted to perjury at his trial in Exeter, when he 
had pretended to have been blackmailed by Scott over an indecent 
photograph. For some reason, the judge did not find these references 
to Minehead prejudicial in the way he had found Mr Taylor’s remark 
about attempts to stop Bessell coming to England. 

Mr Carman ended his lengthy, second harangue with two ques¬ 
tions to the judge: 

“Is your lordship sure that there is no real risk of the course of 
justice being interfered with or obstructed by the admission of this 
evidence? 

“Is your lordship sure it is fair, right and just to admit this 
evidence?” His lordship decided it was fair: “I have come to the 
conclusion that it is fair to admit this evidence. I have come to the 
conclusion that I have discretion [to exclude it]. No judgment on 
the veracity of the evidence is implied.” 

So the last attempt to prevent the case being heard had failed. But 
perhaps, in pitching his argument as high as this, Mr Carman had 
succeeded in intruding the idea into the judge’s mind that these 
three witnesses were only heard by virtue of his own magnanimity in 
allowing them; that he must take especial responsibility for seeing 
that they did not abuse this dispensation. I don’t know. There may 
be many explanations for the judge’s rough treatment of the wit¬ 
nesses and considerate - not to say deferential - treatment of the 
defendants. At the time, most of us in court felt that Mr Carman had 
gone on too long and was wasting his client’s money - five QCs and 
nearly twice that number of junior counsel, not counting solicitors 


46 


THE LAST WORD 


and solicitors’ clerks, sat ticking away like taximeters, chalking up 
their tremendous fees. We had no reason to suspect, at that stage, 
that Thorpe might be having his expenses paid by Sir James 
Goldsmith, the Marmite king. Even so, I am not sure in retrospect, 
that Mr Carman was not putting in some of his most useful work at 
this point. 

The next few minutes, before the jury’s return, were taken up with 
the puzzling episode, already referred to, of Pencourt’s exclusion. 
Mr Carman rose to suggest that the journalists Barrie Penrose and 
Roger Courtiour should be excluded from the trial - as they had 
already been excluded from the legal arguments - on the grounds 
that “they might be potential witnesses.” 

A barrister hastily summoned by London Weekend Television, 
for whom they were preparing a documentary film on the case, put 
in an appearance here. He did not seem to have had time to acquaint 
himself very thoroughly with his clients’ problems. He pointed out 
that the two journalists had been present throughout the Minehead 
hearing and he understood that there was no question of the Crown 
calling them as witnesses. Mr Taylor agreed, assuring the court 
there was no question of that. Mr Carman said mysteriously, “I did 
not say I am going to call them. Someone might. I am not 
speculating.” 

From the judge’s interruptions at an early stage it was plain which 
side he was going to take, but Pencourt’s barrister battled on in the 
manner of a man determined to justify his fees, citing precedents 
and other legal examples. 

The judge looked mysterious. “I can easily visualise a situation in 
which they might be called,” he said. “They are not ultimately 
deprived of knowing word for word what is going on. This is a 
serious matter for the defendants, if not for your clients. It is a bit of 
a goldmine they have found. I rule that Mr Penrose and Mr 
Courtiour should remain out of court during the evidence of 
Bessell, Newton and Scott.” 

The two journalists who had done more than anyone else to bring 
Thorpe to trial, with the possible exception of Detective Chief 
Superintendent Michael Challes of the Somerset and Avon 
Constabulary, stood up and left the court. Needless to say, nobody 
ever did call them as witnesses. After the acquittal, London 
Weekend Television decided against showing any part of their 
£250,000 documentary. Once again, information about Mr Thorpe, 
painfully acquired over many months, was consigned to oblivion. 


2 

Tale of Mr Peter Taylor 


In a Nutshell 

When the jurors finally took their places in the court, after ten hours 
of legal argument aimed at aborting the whole trial, it was the sleepy 
hour of the afternoon. Mr Taylor treated them first to a brilliantly 
summarised thumb-nail sketch of the prosecution case. I watched 
them closely throughout, but only five members showed much 
interest, and only three of these were able to sustain it throughout 
the ten minutes or so of Mr Taylor’s summary, delivered in clear, 
forceful English, with no rhetorical flourishes. 

“Twenty years ago,” said Mr Taylor, “in 1959, Mr Jeremy 
Thorpe was elected Member of Parliament for North Devon. Dur¬ 
ing the early 1960s he had a homosexual relationship with Norman 
Scott. From then on Mr Scott was a continuing danger to his 
reputation and career. It was a danger of which Mr Thorpe was 
constantly reminded by Scott pestering him for help and talking of 
the relationship with others. 

“In 1967 Mr Thorpe was elected leader of the Liberal Party. But 
the higher he climbed on the political ladder, the greater was the 
threat to his ambition from Scott. 

“His anxiety became an obsession, and his thoughts desperate. 

“Early in 1969 at his room in the House of Commons he incited 
his close friend, David Holmes, to kill Norman Scott. Peter Bessell, 
a fellow Liberal MP, was present. Holmes and Bessell tried, over a 
period of time, to dissuade Mr Thorpe from this plan, and to 
humour him. Other, less dramatic measures, were suggested and 
tried - seeking to get Scott to America, trying to get him a job, 
paying him money, purchasing damaging letters from him. But 
Scott remained a constant and serious threat. 

“Shortly before the first of the two General Elections in 1974, 
Scott went to live in Mr Thorpe’s constituency. He had been talking 
openly about his relationship with Jeremy Thorpe, and he was 
seeking to publish a book about it. 


48 


THE LAST WORD 


“The accused, David Holmes, eventually became convinced that, 
as Mr Thorpe had repeatedly urged, the only way to stop this threat 
both to Mr Thorpe and to the Liberal Party effectively was to kill 
Scott. 

“Mr Holmes had connections in South Wales. He knew the 
accused John Le Mesurier, a carpet dealer. Through him he met the 
accused George Deakin, a dealer in fruit machines, and a plot was 
hatched to find someone who would kill Scott for reward. 

“Mr Deakin recruited Andrew Newton, an airline pilot, as the 
hired assassin. Mr Deakin met him and briefed him. Mr Holmes also 
met Newton and briefed him further. 

“The reward was to be £10,000. Attempts were made - but failed 
- to lure Mr Scott to his death, but eventually in October 1975 Mr 
Newton met him in Devon, gained his confidence and drove him out 
on to the moors. 

“There Newton produced a gun. Scott had brought a dog with 
him. Newton shot the dog but failed to shoot Mr Scott. 

“Mr Newton was arrested, charged and convicted in March 1976. 
He had been charged with possessing a firearm with intent to 
endanger life, but at his trial the true history of the shooting did not 
emerge. 

“He was sent to prison and on his release in 1977 he was paid 
£5,000, half the contract price. The cash was handed over to him by 
Le Mesurier at a remote spot in South Wales. 

“The money to pay for this contract was procured by Jeremy 
Thorpe. He had persuaded Mr Jack Hayward, a wealthy benefac¬ 
tor, to make substantial contribution to Liberal election funds. 

“Mr Thorpe then personally arranged for the money to be 
delivered by a devious route through the Channel Islands to 
Holmes, so that payment could be made to Newton. 

“In a nutshell, this is what the case is about. It is the Crown’s 
submission that in 1969 Mr Thorpe was guilty of inciting Mr 
Holmes to murder Scott. That is one of the two charges. It is also the 
Crown’s submission that later all four of these men were guilty of a 
conspiracy to murder Scott.” 

That ended the Crown’s summary of the case against Thorpe and 
the other three defendants. Those with an ear for the finer points 
noticed that although Mr Taylor had referred to the three other 
defendants, at one time or another, by their surnames, he always 
spoke of “Mr Thorpe” or, just occasionally, “Jeremy Thorpe,” the 
one being an eminent public figure, the other a familiar and popular 
name. 



TALE OF MR PETER TAYLOR 


49 


At the end of this summary, Mr Taylor reminded the jury that it 
was up to the Crown to prove the guilt of the accused “so you must 
be sure before you can convict.” He also urged them to consider the 
case against each defendant individually. Finally, he warned them 
that the trial would take a long time. 

As if to emphasise the point, he now embarked on a much longer 
outline of the Crown case. What took him only a part of a morning 
in Minehead was now to take him two full days. Even so, Mr Taylor 
left out many background details to the case which were already 
familiar to those who had been following it at Minehead, in The 
Pencourt File and in the newspapers. Nothing which was not strictly 
relevant to the case was admitted; there was to be no gratuitous dirt, 
not even any evidence of Thorpe’s homosexual inclinations which 
did not bear on the alleged relationship with Norman Scott. 

The story began, said Mr Taylor, as far back as 1961, when 
Thorpe was a bachelor MP of thirty-two and Scott a bachelor of 
twenty-one, working in the Oxfordshire stables of someone called 
Mr Norman Vater. Vater was a friend of Thorpe, who visited him 
there. 

It was in relation to some letters from Thorpe to Vater which Scott 
stole that Mr Carman later made the admission of Thorpe’s 
homosexual tendencies , but the contents of the letters were never 
discussed; in fact , the judge was later to interrupt and prevent them 
from being discussed. This circumstance inevitably leads to specula¬ 
tion about a possible agreement between prosecution and defence , 
with or without the judge’s knowledge , that no evidence of Thorpe’s 
homosexual background would be called provided Thorpe was pre¬ 
pared to acknowledge homosexual tendencies at the relevant time . 
Without in any way questioning the propriety of such an agreement , if 
it existed , one can justifiably question whether the prosecution got the 
better of the deal. Traditionally , evidence of a wider-ranging nature - 
as to background and character - is permitted in a conspiracy trial 
though not in other criminal cases. By his gentlemanly reticence , Mr 
Taylor denied himself the usual benefits of a conspiracy charge , while 
accepting the disadvantages , and denying the jury any fuller glimpse 
into the background of a defendant who was to be described by the 
judge as “a national figure with a very distinguished public record” 
possessing an “unblemished character.” Mr Vater remained a 
shadowy figure , identified by name alone. 

On one such visit, Mr Taylor continued, Thorpe very briefly met 
Scott, then called Norman Josiffe, sometimes Lianche-Josiffe. 
Later Scott fell out with his employer and left. After a period in a 


50 


THE LAST WORD 


clinic due to a nervous breakdown, Scott went to see Thorpe at the 
House of Commons and asked for his help. 

The date was 8 November 1961. Later that night, Thorpe took 
Scott and his Jack Russell terrier called Mrs Tish to the house of 
Thorpe’s mother, Mrs Ursula Thorpe, at Oxted, Surrey, explaining 
that to make things easier he would introduce him as a member of 
the camera crew which was to take him abroad next day. At 
Thorpe’s request, said Mr Taylor, Scott (the name Josiffe was still 
used in Taylor's account until some time later , but for clarity's sake I 
will refer to him throughout as Scott) signed the visitors’ book with a 
false name and address. 

That night, said Mr Taylor, Thorpe visited Scott’s room on sev¬ 
eral occasions, on the second of which homosexual relations took 
place. This was the start of the homosexual affair. 

Next day, Thorpe gave Scott some money with which he rented a 
room at 21 Draycott Place, Chelsea, not far from the House of 
Commons. On his return from abroad, Thorpe visited Scott fre¬ 
quently at that address and the homosexual relationship continued 
between them intermittently, certainly until 1963, said Mr Taylor. 

Thorpe had proposed to spend Christmas at a Barnstaple hotel. 
He now arranged for Scott to stay with some people called Collier at 
a house nearby. Collier was a friend of Thorpe and a prospective 
Liberal candidate. On one occasion, after lunch with Scott, the 
Colliers and his mother, Mrs Ursula Thorpe, everybody else went 
for a walk in the garden while Scott and Thorpe had sexual rela¬ 
tions, said Mr Taylor. 

Later, there was a second visit to Mrs Thorpe’s home at Oxted. 
On this occasion, Scott was introduced by his proper name (of 
Josiffe). Mr Taylor asked the jury to look at photocopies of the 
visitors’ book. Experts would reveal how the entries had been 
altered, he said. 

After this second visit, Scott returned to the Colliers. A further 
incident occurred when Scott was back in Draycott Place. A girl 
whom Scott met there and became intimate with, later accused him 
of having stolen her fur coat. Two policemen went to interview Scott 
about this at Thorpe’s office in Bridge Street, opposite the House of 
Commons. When they arrived, according to Scott, Thorpe was 
making sexual advances at him. 

Mr Taylor pointed out that Thorpe flatly denied having had any 
homosexual relationship with Scott, but the prosecution did not rely 
on Scott’s word for it. There were also Bessell’s evidence of admis¬ 
sions made to him by Thorpe and two letters, the first of which Mr 



TALE OF MR PETER TAYLOR 


51 


Taylor proceeded to read. It ended with the famous lines: “Bunnies 
can and will go to France, Yours affectionately, Jeremy. I miss you.” 

“The tone and content of these letters, we submit are entirely 
consistent with, and tend to confirm, what Scott will tell you about 
the relationship.” 

Mr Taylor added that “Bunnies” or “Bunny” was the name 
Thorpe apparently used for Scott, being a reference to their first 
night together when Thorpe said Scott looked like a frightened 
rabbit. He said he did not want the jury to come to any conclusions 
so early in the case, but at some stage the jury was going to have to 
ask itself whether this was a letter from a Member of Parliament to 
someone down on his luck, or whether it had the ring of a much 
more intimate personal involvement. 

Meanwhile Thorpe was trying to sort out Scott’s insurance cards, 
which had been mislaid. At some stage Thorpe moved into a flat in 
Marsham Court, Westminster. Scott visited him there, sleeping on a 
camp bed. The sexual connection continued. But at the end of 1962, 
Scott was in a depressed, almost suicidal state. He was even thinking 
of killing himself and Jeremy Thorpe. 

On 19 December 1962 he went to the Easton Hotel in Victoria 
where he found, quite by chance, that the receptionist was Mrs 
Mary Collier, with whom he had been staying in North Devon at the 
beginning of the year. Another woman was present who knew both 
him and Thorpe. As a result of Scott’s condition and what he said, 
two policemen came to the hotel. Mr Scott made a statement and 
handed them the two letters in Thorpe's handwriting which the jury 
had seen. 

“It might be that he also handed them some other documents,” 
said Mr Taylor. 

Mr Taylor did not expand on these other documents at the time, 
and their identity was never much debated subsequently. It seems 
probable, if they existed, that they were the letters from Thorpe to 
Norman Vater which Scott had stolen on leaving Vaters employ¬ 
ment. If so, of course, they would have been Vater* s property and the 
police would have been under no obligation to return them to Scott 
when he later took steps to have his own letters returned to him, many 
years later. The police never produced them nor revealed what they 
contained, and their nature remained another of those little pools of 
reticence, dotted around the case like quicksands to trap the unwary 
commentator. The other lady at the Easton Court Hotel was later 
named as Caroline Barrington-War d, another character in the drama 
identified by name alone. But this police statement of December 


52 


THE LAST WORD 


1962 , later read to the court, spelled out Scott’s accusations against 
Thorpe at a time when homosexuality between consenting adults was 
still a criminal offence . The police took no action , then or subse¬ 
quently , and it was not until the second police investigation had 
started in October 1977 y after Newton claimed he had been hired to 
murder Scott by a prominent Liberal , that its existence was 
acknowledged . 

The crisis passed, said Mr Taylor, and the story moved to 1963. 
At this point the judge adjourned the hearing until the next day, 
urging the jury not to discuss the case outside the court, even with 
their families. “You are to keep an open mind throughout the trial,” 
he said. 


Day three: 10 May 1979 

The only incident to be recorded in 1963 was a letter from Thorpe 
to Gieves of Bond Street, complaining about a bill for a pair of silk 
pyjamas which Scott had ordered on Thorpe’s account. In 
December 1964 Scott was again without a job. Thorpe paid for him 
to go to Switzerland and stay with a doctor, but Scott was not happy 
abroad and returned to England after a few days, leaving his suit¬ 
case behind him. Thorpe was annoyed to be told that Scott had left a 
number of incriminating letters in the suitcase, and took steps to 
recover the suitcase. Scott, meanwhile, went to Ireland, where he 
wrote a long letter to Mrs Ursula Thorpe, complaining of her son’s 
treatment of him. Thorpe went to Bessell, to whom he had already, 
in an earlier conversation, confessed his homosexual tendencies. 
Thereafter, said Mr Taylor, Bessell acted as Thorpe’s agent in all 
matters connected with Scott. First Mr Bessell went to Dublin, saw 
Scott and gave him a little money. Next, arrangements were made to 
recover the lost suitcase. In June 1965 it was returned from 
Switzerland, collected by Bessell’s secretary and taken to his office 
where, said Mr Taylor, Thorpe went and removed his letters. 

“The luggage was then closed up and sent by Aer Lingus to 
Dublin where it reached [Scott] in its depleted state.” 

Since it was plainly Scott’s letter to Mrs Ursula Thorpe which had 
set the cat among the pigeons, by Mr Taylor’s reckoning, I give an 
extended summary of it, as read out by Mr Taylor: 

“Dear Mrs Thorpe, 

For the last five years, as you probably know, Jeremy and I have 
had a homosexual relationship. To go into it too deeply will not help 


TALE OF MR PETER TAYLOR 


53 


either of us. When I first came down to Stonewalls, that was when I 
first met him. Though he told you something about a TV pro¬ 
gramme and Malta, this was all not so true. What remains is the fact 
that through my meeting Jeremy that day I gave birth to this vice 
that lies latent in every man.” 

The letter traces their relationship, mentioning an occasion when 
they had lunched together at the Colliers’ after a funeral. “I think 
that was the day I realised that Jeremy did not care for me as a friend 

but only as a-Oh, I hate to write that. It upset me terribly and I 

was rather sick, because you see, I was looking for a friend in the 
real sense of the word.” 

Later, Thorpe took him to his new London flat. “When he had 
satisfied himself he put me to sleep on a hard little camp bed. This 
was when I realised he did not care for me.” 

Later, the letter said, he had spent eleven months in a nursing 
home, unfortunately becoming addicted to drugs. “Homosexually, 
as I was being kept under sedation, I was cured, but of course when I 
left there I went straight back to Jeremy.” 

In Ireland (this is still 1963 on an earlier visit) he managed to buy 
a riding school. It was a flourishing little business, but lacked capital. 
He was incapacitated in an accident and bills started coming in. 

He thought of Thorpe, the letter said. Perhaps Jeremy could lend 
him some money to get him on his feet again. But, as the letter 
described it, things did not turn out like that: 

“I was to go to England - to Jeremy - to corruption. Your son offered 
me £2 after he had satisfied himself. He really is a very splendid person. 
So of course the business folded up. I was bankrupt.” 

He was determined never to see Thorpe again. He became very 
depressed and took an overdose of sleeping tablets. In St George’s 
Hospital, “They asked me why I had done it. Could I tell them? No, 
I am too loyal, the quality your son fails at miserably .. .” He adds 
that at this point Thorpe was “terribly embarrassed” by him. 

“He gave me £2 for services rendered. I heard of a job in 
Switzerland. Jeremy was thrilled, now I see why.” 

When he got there, he found he had lost his luggage, he had to 
walk over two miles in the snow to the house where he found a loft 
with no light or water. It was haunted by rats and smelled of horse 
manure. 

He now found himself, wrote Scott, in Dublin, where Thorpe had 
sent him, with no wages. In desperation he went to a priest and told 
him everything. 



54 


THE LAST WORD 


“The priest advised me to ask Jeremy to lend me the money to at 
least get my luggage back. You see, I have no clothes and life is 
impossible. I got somebody to ring Jeremy, who was very sweet and 
said: ‘I have spent £30 on Norman and his luggage and phone calls.’ 
This was the last straw. Was our ‘love’ to be measured in monetary 
value? £30 is so little. I was so hurt .. 

“Jeremy could lend me the money but won’t. Perhaps he knows I 
will never say anything about us to anyone. It is so easy to say 
‘Norman must start for himself,’ ” the letter went on. “Mrs Thorpe 
you are probably shattered by all this. I am so sorry but what can I 
do? Will you ask Jeremy to please send me at least the money for the 
luggage. 

“I hate asking because I know it may cause friction and I know 
how close you both are. This is really why I am writing to you. 
Jeremy owes me nothing, possibly I owe him a lot, although I feel we 
balance out. 

“Now instead of helping a cast-off friend I appeal to his finer 
feelings as a man to help me who is in real need. I promise I shall 
repay every penny as soon as I am on my feet - believe me I mean 
this.” 

The main part of the letter concluded: “I am in desperate straits 
or I shouldn’t be asking. 

“Yours sincerely, 

Norman Lianche-Josiffe.” 

A postscript said that he was to have been married in September 
but the girl had found out about his relationship with Thorpe - 
“hence I shall probably remain single.” He ended the postscript: 

“I now have a real desire because of this tremendous priest, to do 
what is best for myself. Can you understand any of this, Mrs Thorpe. 
I am so sorry. Please believe I am so desperate for help.” 

In introducing this letter, Mr Taylor had sounded the first 
apologetic note about his witness: 

“This letter, you may think, was a very hurtful letter to have 
written. But Mr Scott will tell you in evidence that although it dealt 
specifically with their homosexual relationship, he thought Mrs 
Thorpe was aware of that by this stage, and he was himself desper¬ 
ate at the time he wrote the letter.” 

A further justification of Mr Taylor*s decision to introduce the 
letter at this stage may have been that whatever else one might say 
about it , it is not the letter of a blackmailer . It specifically repudiates 
any suggestion that if Scott did not receive the money he would spill 
the beans . Nor, in blackmailer’s terms , is he asking for much. On the 



TALE OF MR PETER TAYLOR 


55 


other hand it can reasonably be claimed that this letter, read to a judge 
and jury who have not yet had the opportunity of seeing Scott, 
portrays him in his most absurd and odious light. No doubt the judge, 
no less than the jury, was at pains to preserve an open mind through¬ 
out the case, but the evidence of this letter was the first direct im¬ 
pression of Scott which the court had been allowed, and it is human 
nature to build assessments on the foundation of a first impression. At 
the end of the trial, the judge had this to say to the jury about Mr Scott, 
whose role in the matter, we must remember, was that of the victim in 
an alleged murder conspiracy: 

*T am sure you remember him very well, his hysterically warped 
personality, an accomplished sponger, very skilful at exciting and 
exploiting sympathy... .He is a fraud, he is a sponger, he is a whiner, 
he is a parasite.” 

One does not know at what stage the judge decided to think of Scott 
in these terms, but it seems reasonable to suppose that the letter, 
introduced at this stage, made a powerful impression which was 
bound to colour reactions to Scott when he eventually appeared 
Moreover, Mr Taylor's insistence that Scott under no circumstances 
could be thought of as a blackmailer did little to add to the murder 
motive. A jury may well be impatient of such subtleties. While they 
can be persuaded, with some difficulty, that it is an improper thing to 
try and murder a blackmailer-this was the point made by the judge at 
Newton's trial in Exeter -they might be confused if the blackmailer, in 
such a narrative, denies that he is a blackmailer. Under those circum¬ 
stances it might appear that two people were on trial, one for black¬ 
mail, the other for conspiracy to murder, as if the jury were required 
to choose between them. Mr Justice Cantley, at the end of the trial, 
invited the jury to decide that Scott was, indeed, a blackmailer, but he 
produced this as further reason for finding against Scott's evidence 
rather than as further motive for murdering him. 

Mr Taylor continued his narrative. In response to this letter, 
Bessell, whose help had been recruited at a luncheon in the Ritz 
Hotel, flew to Dublin armed with threats of proceedings being taken 
for criminal libel. 

In 1967 Thorpe became leader of the Liberal Party. When 
Bessell mentioned his anxieties about Scott, Thorpe said that if it 
ever became public he would take his life. In August, Bessell began 
to pay Scott a retainer of between £5 and £7 a week, a large part 
being reimbursed by Thorpe. Scott was set up as a freelance model, 
and it was at this point that he changed his name from Josiffe to 
Scott. In 1968, Thorpe married his first wife, Caroline Allpass, and 


56 


THE LAST WORD 


in December of that year Thorpe made his first suggestion - to 
Bessell - that Scott should be killed, said Mr Taylor. This suggestion 
was made in Thorpe’s room in the House of Commons, he said, with 
Thorpe explaining “it is no worse than killing a sick dog.” At this 
meeting, Thorpe suggested that the man to do the murder was 
David Holmes, an old friend who had been best man at Thorpe’s 
wedding. 

This suggestion was put to Holmes, in Bessell’s presence, some 
time in early 1969 - again in Thorpe’s room at the House of 
Commons. Holmes was reluctant to comply. Bessell’s account of 
this meeting was all the evidence on the charge of incitement. 

On 13 May 1969 Norman Scott married and their problems 
seemed to be over. Thorpe was only partially convinced, and 
thought that the “ultimate solution” might eventually be needed. 

Thorpe’s misgiving eventually turned out to be right, said Mr 
Taylor, because Scott soon found himself hard up without his 
national insurance cards to claim benefit and with a pregnant wife. 
He threatened to take his story to the Sunday papers. To make 
matters worst, Scott’s marriage was failing - “despite,” said Mr 
Taylor, the birth of a son in November. The Scotts parted in early 
1970 and in October the same year Mrs Scott started divorce 
proceedings. 

According to Mr Taylor, Thorpe was worried about what might 
come out in the divorce proceedings. Bessell put Scott in touch with 
a solicitor who would represent him and also, the jury might think, 
keep Thorpe’s name out of the proceedings. Thorpe decided that 
Scott should be killed in America; Bessell and Holmes went 
through a charade of taking him seriously. The purpose of this was 
to persuade Thorpe that it was impracticable. 

Scott meanwhile formed an association with a widow called 
Gwen Parry-Jones in North Wales. In May 1971 Scott and she 
visited London and Scott spoke to leading members of the Liberal 
Party - Mr Emlyn Hooson, Mr David Steel and Lord Byers, show¬ 
ing them letters which he had received from Bessell to accompany 
payments of the “retainer.” Nothing came of this. 

In March 1972 Mrs Parry-Jones died, said Mr Taylor. He did not 
add that at her inquest -she may have committed suicide - Scott had 
blurted out an account of his relationship with Thorpe. No news¬ 
paper chose to print it, although they could have done so without risk 
of a libel action from Thorpe, under the privilege attaching to reports 
of court proceedings. 

On 21 September 1972 Mrs Scott’s divorce went through. Mr 


TALE OF MR PETER TAYLOR 


57 


Taylor did not feel it necessary to add that no mention of Thorpe's 
name was made in the course of the proceedings. On 23 April 1973, 
the divorce fees were paid to Mr Ross by Thorpe. 

In 1973 Scott moved to South Molton, Devon, in Thorpe’s con¬ 
stituency. He started talking in public houses about his relationship 
with Thorpe, telling his story to a freelance reporter called Gordon 
Winter, who made tape recordings and took photocopies of Scott’s 
letters, mostly from Bessell. On 27 February 1974, the eve of 
polling day in the first General Election that year, he surrendered 
the letters to Dr Gleadle, a local practitioner who was treating him 
for depression, in exchange for £2,500. Holmes later admitted this 
money came from him. 

A month later, said Mr Taylor, on 10 April 1974, Thorpe wrote 
to Jack Hayward, a wealthy benefactor of the Liberal Party, asking, 
among other things, for £10,000 to be paid to Mr Nadir Dinshaw, 
godfather of Thorpe’s son Rupert. Mr Dinshaw sent a cheque for 
the whole £10,000 to Holmes, said Mr Taylor. 

Mr Bessell had meanwhile gone to live in America, following the 
collapse of his English companies. According to Mr Taylor, it was at 
this moment, between the two elections of 1974, that Holmes 
became converted to the view that Thorpe was right and Scott 
would have to be killed if the threat of disclosure was to be averted. 
“Both Thorpe and the Liberal Party were in a position that they had 
much to lose.” At this point, said Mr Taylor, “we move from 
incitement to conspiracy.” 

Plans were set in motion to find someone to carry out the killing, 
said Mr Taylor. Earlier, in about 1973, Mr Le Mesurier introduced 
Holmes to Mr Deakin for professional advice. On a subsequent 
occasion when all three were together, Le Mesurier told Deakin 
that a friend of Holmes was being blackmailed and asked him if he 
knew anyone who would frighten the man off. Deakin asked Mr 
David Miller, a friend, the same question, and Miller said he did. 
The man Miller had in mind was his old friend Andrew Gino 
Newton, an airline pilot. 

Meanwhile, on 4 February 1975, a curious incident occurred in 
Barnstaple. Two men, one of them saying he was a journalist from 
Der Spiegel called Steiner, tricked Scott into showing them some 
documents which they then stole. Scott had cautiously left copies of 
them with his solicitor. Mr Taylor said the two men concerned were 
Holmes and Deakin and that, later, Holmes admitted as much to 
Newton. 

On 25 February 1975, said Mr Taylor, Miller introduced Newton 


58 


THE LAST WORD 


to Deakin at a Showman’s Dinner in Blackpool. Newton said, “Is it 
true you want someone bumped off?” and proceeded to offer his 
services, saying, “I’m your man,” or words to that effect. 

At a later meeting between Deakin and Newton the sum of 
£10,000 was agreed as a fee for the killing, said Mr Taylor. 

After a mix-up over the address - Deakin told Newton that Scott 
was to be found in Dunstable, instead of Barnstaple - Newton was 
put in touch with Holmes, who confirmed the fee of £10,000 at a 
meeting in the Sloane Court Hotel, Chelsea and gave him the 
correct address in Barnstaple. 

On 5 March 1975, said Mr Taylor, Thorpe wrote another letter to 
Mr Hayward asking, among other things, for a further cheque of 
£10,000 to be sent to Dinshaw in Jersey. Holmes then spoke to 
Dinshaw and asked for the money to be paid to him in cash as and 
when he wanted it. Mr Dinshaw then started paying sums in cash to 
Holmes over a period. 

Newton then made two attempts to fulfil his contract, said Mr 
Taylor. He tried to get Scott to come to the Royal Garden Hotel in 
Kensington where he intended to kill him with a chisel. Newton 
pretended to be interested in hiring Scott for modelling services. 
Then it was planned to lure Scott to the Holiday Inn at Bristol, 
where Holmes would pose as a reporter. Again, Scott did not rise to 
the bait. 

“We now proceed to the crucial month of October 1975 when the 
shooting took place,” said Mr Taylor, explaining how Newton hired 
a car in Blackpool and drove to Devon where he met Scott. They 
had a long meeting at which Scott told Newton his whole story, and 
Newton made notes on two pieces of pink paper. 

These notes y although Taylor did not say it at the time , were to 
create an enormous amount of trouble . One of them contained the 
name of a Person whom Scott, at this stage , claimed to have met in the 
early days of his association with Thorpe . Crown , defence and judge 
alike were most anxious that the name of this Person should never be 
mentioned in court . The satirical magazine , Private Eye, rushing in 
as always where angels feared to tread , suggested that Scott was 
claiming to have met Lord Snowdon , husband of Princess Margaret 
and brother-in-law of the Queen , at a house in Dulwich on the night 
of his initial seduction by Thorpe. Scott may have claimed so in his 
time y but it now seems certain that he never met Snowdon. Under 
cross-examination Scott disarmingly claimed never to have been told 
the surname of the man introduced to him as “Tony” on this occa¬ 
sion. 'Whether Snowdon was named in these notes or not y no sugges- 


TALE OF MR PETER TAYLOR 


59 


non of impropriety was ever made against him. Yet on several occa¬ 
sions the whole trial was held up while judge and counsel debated 
ways of avoiding a mention of this man's name. 

A second meeting was arranged between Newton and Scott at the 
village of Combe Martin, where Scott was living. This time Newton 
brought an old Mauser automatic and some ammunition. He bor¬ 
rowed his girl-friend’s car. 

“But there was a surprise for Mr Newton,” said Mr Taylor. 
“Being somewhat apprehensive, Scott brought with him his large 
dog, Rinka, a Great Dane.” This was not what Newton had 
intended, but Scott and the dog got into the car. Newton drove to 
Porlock where he stopped at the Castle Hotel. When they drove 
back over the moors, Newton pretended to be tired and Scott 
offered to drive. Newton stopped the car. The two men got out, and 
so did the dog. 

Newton pulled out his gun and shot the dog in the head. He then 
pointed the gun at Scott and said, “It is your turn now.” But the gun 
did not fire: 

“Whether the gun jammed and thereby saved Scott, or whether 
Newton got cold feet - or perhaps already had cold feet before he 
set out that evening - you will have to consider.” 

After tinkering with the gun, Newton drove away to the Cardiff 
home of his friend, Mr Miller, where he stripped the gun and got it 
working again. Newton would later claim this was play-acting, and 
the gun had never really jammed. 

On 18 November 1975 Newton and Miller, returning from a 
short holiday abroad, were met by the police and Newton was 
detained over the dog incident. The gun was recovered by police 
and an expert found it had a tendency to jam. Newton was charged 
with possessing a gun with intent to endanger life and committed for 
trial at Exeter on bail. 

Clearly, said Mr Taylor, Newton’s trial was fraught with danger to 
those involved in the conspiracy. Holmes met Newton a number of 
times before the trial to discuss his defence. Newton said he was 
going to say that Scott had blackmailed him over a nude photo¬ 
graph; Newton, of his own accord, had taken a gun to frighten him. 
Newton made it clear that he expected at least half the contract 
figure - £5,000, said Mr Taylor. 

Holmes said he was going to the United States to get help for 
Newton’s defence, and that a letter would be sent supporting the 
story that Newton had to tell. Holmes then went to California, told 
Bessell what had happened, and persuaded him to write a letter 


60 


THE LAST WORD 


saying that Scott had been blackmailing him about an affair with his 
secretary. This would discourage Scott from telling his story about 
Thorpe at Newton’s trial. 

Bessell agreed to write the letter, said Mr Taylor, on condition 
that it was never made public and that he would not be required to 
testify. Afterwards according to Bessell, Holmes admitted that the 
airline pilot had been hired to kill Scott. 

In the event, his letter was not needed, as Scott blurted out his 
story of a relationship with Thorpe at a national insurance tribunal 
in Barnstaple on 29 January 1976, six weeks before the Newton 
trial was due to start. This time the British press did not ignore it , and 
Scott's allegations were printed across every front page . 

Meanwhile, however, the contents of the letter had been 
“leaked” to the press by Cyril Smith, another Liberal MP, to 
Bessell’s fury. Bessell announced he was going to withdraw the 
letter, whereupon Thorpe telephoned him on 2 February and 
begged him not to. 

In early February Thorpe was given a vote of confidence by his 
party, despite Scott’s outburst in court, and Bessell decided it was 
safe to withdraw the letter which he did. 

Thorpe next made a statement to the police on 8 February 1976, 
denying any knowledge of the £2,500 paid by Holmes for Scott’s 
letters, or any knowledge of the dog-shooting incident beyond what 
he had read in the press. He also wrote a letter to Bessell, dated 19 
February, denouncing Cyril Smith as a man who has “opened his 
mouth too often.” Thorpe advised Bessell not to withdraw the 
letter, adding: 

“The press are still being bloody and still trying to destroy me. 
Harold, on the other hand, is being quite superb.” 

Mr Taylor explained that “Harold” was a reference to Harold 
Wilson - now Sir Harold - who was then Prime Minister. The letter 
ended: “Yours affectionately, Jeremy,” and Mr Taylor reminded 
the jury of reference to “that bastard Bessell” in other letters of Mr 
Thorpe at this time - his begging letters to Jack Hayward. 

Before describing the method by which £5,000 was paid to 
Newton by Le Mesurier after Newton’s release from prison, Mr 
Taylor gave a series of warnings to the jury. 

The first, in the light of press interest in the case, was to put aside 
anything they may have read about it and concentrate on the 
evidence they heard. 

The second concerned witnesses who had accepted money from 
the press. “The fact that a witness sells his story to the press does not 



TALE OF MR PETER TAYLOR 


61 


mean that it is false,” said Mr Taylor. “The only question that you 
will have to decide as each comes to give his evidence is a simple one 
- is he telling us the truth?” 

Both Miller and Newton had made extensive tape recordings of 
conversations with the main characters in the affair. The jury would 
hear them, and they were “very revealing and significant.” But 
Miller might be seen as an accomplice to the conspiracy, and so 
quite clearly was Newton. Mr Taylor warned the jury to take the 
greatest care in considering the evidence of an accomplice; they 
should not rely on it unless it was supported by independent 
testimony. 

A few minutes after the warning, Mr Justice Cantley decided it 
was time to adjourn for the day. The time was 4.15 pm, quarter of an 
hour after the usual time for adjournment, but Mr Taylor showed 
no signs of flagging. The judge said it was a natural break and 
expressed some concern that members of the jury might find their 
attention wandering after such a long speech. So the last thought left 
in the jury's mind at the end of the third day was that they should take 
the greatest care before accepting the word of those who had supplied 
so much of Mr Taylor s narrative. Perhaps Mr Taylor had a different 
conclusion to his day's speech in mind. If so, we shall never know it . 


Day four: 11 May 1979 

This, being a Friday, was the end of the first week of the trial. Mr 
Justice Cantley repeated his now ritualised warning to journalists 
before the start of the day’s hearing. He said he had been asked by 
one of the “responsible” journalists in court to rule on whether it 
would be permissible to talk to witnesses for background material 
which would not be published until after the trial. 

The judge had decided to refuse this permission. His reason was 
that it would create difficulties for him in finding out whether it was 
a responsible piece of interviewing or a piece of interference. 

“It does not arise from any mistrust of the responsible journalists 
in court,” said the judge, “but there is a suggestion of irresponsible 
journalism, and the presence of ad hoc journalists. 

“In view of that, and for the administration of justice in this case, I 
consider it essential that no witness should be interviewed at all.” 

One could understand his reference to “responsible journalists'' as 
meaning the traditional corps of courtroom reporters, who never 
offered an opinion on anything they heard, and whose discretionary 
role was limited to little more than sub-editing their own shorthand 


62 


THE LAST WORD 


notes. The reference to “irresponsible journalism” presumably 
covered those journalists whose investigative reporting had finally 
obliged the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring a prosecution - 
at least one of whom was alleged to have offered large sums to the 
witness Newton subject to Thorpe’s being convicted. The reference to 
“ad hoc” journalists was more puzzling for anyone who knew of the 
rigorous scrutiny applied to applications for a press seat in the Old 
Bailey. Perhaps the judge knew nothing of this background and was 
just sounding off * as elderly gentlemen have always been privileged to 
do. I satin the press benches for six weeks and never saw an “ad hoc” 
journalist there , unless the judge was referring to Mrs Sybille 
Bedford , the immensely distinguished novelist and chronicler of 
court cases whose book on the Bodkin Adams trial , The Best We 
Can Do, is a classic of the genre. 

But the simplest explanation was that Mr Justice Cantley was once 
again rattling his toothbrushes at the press. Part of the defence was 
that the whole case against Thorpe had been got up by the press - 
most particularly by the two journalists Penrose and Courtiour. The 
suggestion , which was never fully developed , was that they had acted 
as liaison officers between Bessell in California and Newton and Scott 
in England to produce the amazing similarities in their evidence. By 
his repeated warnings , Mr Justice Cantley impressed on the jury’s 
mind the idea of the press - or at any rate its less responsible or “ad 
hoc” members - as a force dedicated to the perversion of justice. Its 
only motive - or the only one to which he referred - was money. In 
fact , as every journalist knows , a higher circulation does not necessar¬ 
ily make a newspaper richer , and richer newspapers do not necessar¬ 
ily pay journalists more. Neither professional pride nor the pursuit of 
excellence were attributable to journalists , only the basest desire for 
sensationalism. It did not seem to occur to him that elements of the 
press were chiefly concerned to see that the truth should not be 
suppressed; or that his impression of them might seem as absurd to 
journalists as it would seem to him if a journalist suggested that some 
of his judicial colleagues took bribes. 


Tale of Mr Peter Taylor resumed 

After some preliminary remarks re-stating the involvement of the 
three other defendants in the alleged conspiracy, Mr Taylor 
returned to the attack on Thorpe in the last day of his opening 
speech, emphasising in particular Thorpe’s last-minute attempts to 
protect himself by tampering with witnesses, as Mr Taylor put it. 



TALE OF MR PETER TAYLOR 


63 


Over lunch at Boulestin’s restaurant in Covent Garden on 10 
November 1977 - some time after police enquiries had been 
resumed - Thorpe suggested to Mr Nadir Dinshaw he should say 
that the money paid to Holmes had come from Mr Dinshaw himself, 
said Mr Taylor. Thorpe suggested he could say he got the money 
from Mr Hayward as part of a business deal. Mr Dinshaw refused, 
and said he would tell the truth. 

On 4 April 1978 the police started a series of interviews with 
defendants. On the same day, Thorpe arranged to meet Mr 
Hayward and asked him to put pressure on Mr Bessell to keep him 
out of England. If Bessell could be made bankrupt, he would be 
unable to return to the United States. Mr Hayward declined to do 
so. 

A few days later, by Mr Taylor’s account, Thorpe made another 
attempt to tamper with Mr Dinshaw’s evidence. He said that if the 
truth came out, Mr Dinshaw, a Pakistani, might be asked to leave 
the country. 

Mr Taylor went on to describe an interview, also on 4 April 1978, 
between Detective Chief Superintendant Michael Challes, of 
Somerset and Avon Police, the officer in charge of the enquiry, and 
David Holmes, the defendant alleged to have hired Newton to do 
the killing on Thorpe’s behalf. When asked whether he knew 
Newton, Holmes replied, “No comment.’’ 

Mr Taylor then produced Thorpe’s written statement to the 
police of 3 June 1978, which will be quoted at length during Mr 
Challes’s evidence later in the trial. This denied any homosexual 
relationship with Scott, denied that Thorpe had been party to any 
conspiracy to kill or injure or frighten Scott, denied any knowledge 
of Newton’s dog shooting and “possible abortive attempt on Scott’s 
life,” or of payments made to Newton or Scott and claimed that he 
had lodged Hayward’s £20,000 with accountants as an “iron 
reserve” for future elections. Mr Taylor maintained there were a 
number of “palpable untruths” in this statement, most particularly 
with regard to the £20,000 of Mr Hayward’s money which, so far 
from being kept by accountants as an iron reserve, had immediately 
been syphoned off to Mr Holmes. 

Mr Taylor ended his speech after seven and a half hours on his feet. 
It had been remarkable for the clarity of its exposition , but also for its 
lack of indignation when describing details of the alleged crime. His 
concern , it would appear , was simply to establish the truth as he saw 
it. He paid the jury the compliment of supposing they would be able to 
understand simple , clear English. An interview with one of the jurors 


64 


THE LAST WORD 


which appeared in the New Statesman a month after the trial, sug¬ 
gests that this confidence may have been misplaced . As Peter 
Chippindale and David Leigh wrote (New Statesman, 27 July 
1979): 

“The picture that appears is one of an intelligent, conscientious 
cross-section of citizens, confronted with a mass of scarcely com¬ 
prehensible evidence, in circumstances where a sensible judgment 
about its value was nearly impossible to make ” 

The unnamed juror claimed to find evidence about the money 
transactions, in particular, “baffling” He said, “We didn’t know 
exactly how the money went to Holmes” 

Under the circumstances, one can conclude only that Mr Taylor 
had been wasting his time . 

He concluded his opening statement: 

“We submit that Mr Thorpe instigated and was party to a conspi¬ 
racy to kill Mr Scott and that Mr Holmes was party to it and acted as 
its manager keeping Mr Thorpe in the background, and that Mr 
Deakin and Mr Le Mesurier were also party to the conspiracy 
working under Mr Holmes to hire and pay Newton for his services.” 

He ended by reminding them that nothing he had said was evi¬ 
dence. He was going to call his first witness, Mr Peter Bessell. 
Would they now listen to the evidence? 



3 

Mr Peter Bessell 


At Minehead, Mr Peter Bessell’s appearance was announced 
dramatically by Mr Taylor rather in the manner of a conjuror 
pulling a rabbit from his hat. The week before, there had been 
strenuous attempts by Thorpe’s lawyers to have Bessell’s evidence 
excluded. The Lord Chief Justice had heard how his immunity from 
the Director of Public Prosecution was so all embracing as to give 
him immunity from prosecution for perjury, should he choose to 
perjure himself at the trial. Mr Taylor pointed out that no such 
immunity was included, and the Lord Chief Justice accordingly 
found against the application. In the course of his pleading, Mr 
Carman had threatened that in cross-examination he was going to 
take Mr Bessell so thoroughly through all his business transactions 
as to discredit him utterly. Mr Taylor ended his opening speech at 
Minehead on the first day of the hearing with the story of how 
Thorpe had tried to persuade Mr Hayward to put pressure on Mr 
Bessell not to come to England. 

“Despite this attempt to keep Mr Bessell away, ” proclaimed Mr 
Taylor, “and despite threats made in open court of what would face 
him, Mr Bessell is here and I propose to call him.” 

No such dramatic introduction awaited him in the Old Bailey on 
the fourth day of the trial. He had already put in an appearance on 
the second day of the trial - in the absence of the jury - to receive a 
severe wigging from the judge, accompanied by threats, for having 
mentioned to a journalist before the trial started that he still drank 
as many cups of tea as formerly. 

On this, his second appearance, the thin, suntanned former MP 
once again walked through the well of the court to the witness-box 
in his dark blue pinstripe suit with a blue check shirt and dark tie, a 
pair of spectacles dangling from a cord round his neck. He had come 
from California, but somehow Mr Bessell gave the impression of 
having come from another planet. His manner was that of a creature 
from outer space going bravely to its execution - an impression 


66 


THE LAST WORD 


that was somewhat reinforced by the judge’s attitude to him. 

No sooner had Mr Bessell taken the oath in his deep, science- 
fiction voice than Mr Justice Cantley indicated that he wished to 
speak to him. First, the judge said that he could sit down if he 
wished, as his evidence was expected to last for some time. Then the 
judge leant forward, no trace of cordiality on his face or in his 
manner, and addressed the witness with fierce, almost insulting 
clarity, about his evidence: 

“You have been given an extensive immunity and I want to make 
it perfectly clear that the immunity does not extend to perjury in this 
trial,” said the judge. 

“I understand that, my lord,” said Mr Bessell. Perhaps I imagined 
it, but it seemed to me that in the face of the judge's hostility, Mr 
Bessells voice already had a fatalistic, whipped-dog undertone to it. 
At Minehead, he had spoken confidently and even with a note of 
self-righteousness from time to time. One could see from the start that 
Mr Justice Cantley was not going to let him get away with any of that. 
Mr Bessell was not on trial and his business record may have attracted 
criticism - like Thorpe's over London and County Securities - but 
never criminal proceedings. Yet there was to be no suggestion that 
Peter Bessell, too, was a man of “unblemished reputation.'' Only the 
four defendants were to be described in those terms, whatever the 
evidence to the contrary. 

There could be no doubt that Mr Bessell was perfectly well aware 
that he had no immunity where perjury was concerned. This had been 
the main issue in the Divisional Court preliminary hearing. Mr 
Justice Cantley could not have supposed he was informing the witness 
of anything he did not already know. The only effect of such a 
warning, given to a witness before he has started giving evidence, was 
to cast doubt in advance on the truthfulness of what he was going to 
say. 

There was no suggestion, at any stage, that Mr Bessell had ever 
committed perjury in the past. The kindest interpretation of the 
judge's behaviour at this point might be that he was simply being 
gratuitously offensive. But this was the moment if one has to put a 
finger on it when it became apparent that the judge's determination to 
be fair to Thorpe was going to extend to the denigration and belittling 
of Crown witnesses. 

As soon as Mr Bessell had taken the oath and listened to the 
judge’s warning, Mr Taylor stood up and asked for a brief adjourn¬ 
ment while he had talks with Mr Carman, Thorpe’s lawyer. Eventu¬ 
ally the jury came back and the Crown’s first witness was able to 



MR PETER BESSELL 


67 


start his evidence. This is the story which Mr Peter Bessell told: 

He had known Thorpe since 1955, when they were both Liberal 
candidates. When Mr Bessell became a Liberal MP in 1964 for the 
neighbouring constituency of Bodmin, they became still closer 
friends. 

In the spring of 1965, Thorpe confessed to him that he was a 
homosexual. This perturbed Mr Bessell, who wanted Thorpe to be 
leader of the Liberal Party. Shortly afterwards Thorpe invited him 
to lunch at the Ritz Hotel and showed him the Dublin letter from 
Norman Scott to his mother, Mrs Ursula Thorpe, which had already 
been read to the jury. Thorpe told him, apropos the allegations 
made in the letter, that the contents were basically correct. Bessell 
volunteered to go to Dublin, see Scott and assess the situation. 

He arrived there a few days later and first saw Father Sweetman, a 
Roman Catholic priest who was looking after Scott. Later he saw 
Scott and suggested to him that he was trying to blackmail Thorpe, 
which was an extradictable offence. Scott was alarmed by this, but 
told him he was concerned to recover his luggage from Switzerland 
and regain his national insurance cards, which Thorpe has taken. 

When Mr Bessell reported to Thorpe the existence of a bundle of 
incriminating letters in this luggage, the two of them arranged to 
have the luggage collected. Thorpe was alarmed by the possibility of 
a police investigation into his homosexual liaison with Scott, par¬ 
ticularly since Scott had given some documents, including letters, to 
the London police in December 1962. Accordingly, Mr Bessell 
arranged to speak to a Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Home 
Office - Mr George Thomas, later Speaker of the House of 
Commons - and to the then Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice. 
Afterwards, Mr Bessell told Thorpe he had no great cause for 
concern; he mentioned a file which had been on Sir Frank’s desk 
and said the Home Secretary had referred to a number of letters. 

Mr Bessell arranged for his secretary to collect Scott’s suitcase 
from Victoria Station, where it had eventually turned up, and take it 
to Thorpe’s flat in Marsham Court. There Thorpe opened it and 
removed two bundles of letters. The suitcase was then sent to Scott 
in Dublin. 

In 1967 Thorpe duly became leader of the Liberal Party. Mr 
Bessell told Thorpe that if anything about his private life came out, 
he would have to resign. Thorpe agreed and said that if anything of 
this sort came out he would be forced to take his own life to avoid 
damaging the party. 

Scott wrote to Mr Bessell on 20 April 1967 mentioning a 




68 


THE LAST WORD 


proposed trip to America. However, the journey never materialised, 
and Scott was taken to a psychiatric unit, where he told a doctor 
everything about his relationship with Thorpe. Mr Bessell sug¬ 
gested he should see Scott in London and Thorpe agreed. Mr 
Bessell started paying Scott a “retainer” of between £5 and £7 a 
week until such time as Scott should sort out his problems and find a 
job. Thorpe refunded most of this momey. 

In 1968, Mr Bessell mentioned to Thorpe that Scott claimed that 
he still had some letters in his possession, in addition to those that 
had been recovered from the suitcase. They hatched a plot to 
recover the letters, with David Holmes - one of the accused - posing 
as a reporter, but this came to nothing when Scott said he had 
destroyed the letters. 

In November or December of the same year he met Thorpe in 
Thorpe’s room at the House of Commons. Thorpe was depressed 
about Scott whom he saw as a continuing threat to his career, and 
said that if Scott could not find a job in America they would have to 
get rid of him. Thorpe suggested various ways of getting rid of the 
body: burying it, tying weights to it and dropping it in a river; 
cementing it into a motorway under construction; finally dropping it 
down a disused tin mine in Cornwall. Mr Bessell raised detailed 
objections to all these proposals and also told Thorpe that it was an 
immoral suggestion, to which Thorpe replied, “It’s no worse than 
killing a sick dog.” Thorpe suggested David Holmes as the mur¬ 
derer, to which Mr Bessell replied,“Rubbish, David is too wet.” He 
thought Holmes too incompetent for the job, but they both agreed 
that they could not do it. Thorpe said, “David is completely loyal 
and if he were instructed properly he would be able to carry it out.” 

Mr Bessell was not certain how serious Thorpe was at this stage, 
and had no intention of taking any part in the murder himself, but 
agreed to be present at a meeting between Holmes and Thorpe if 
only to prevent the plan going any further. 

In February 1969 Mr Bessell met Thorpe and Holmes in 
Thorpe’s room. Thorpe asked him to lock the door and sit down. 
The plan was that Holmes, posing as a reporter from Der Spiegel , 
should take Scott to Plymouth as for a meeting with his editor, who 
wished to be convinced of the truth of Scott’s story, Holmes should 
get Scott drunk, take him to a lonely spot in Cornwall and shoot 
him. Thorpe put this forward as a practical plan, something that 
Holmes should do, but Holmes looked petrified. Eventually, 
Bessell managed to catch his eye and winked, after which Holmes 
relaxed. 




MR PETER BESSELL 


69 


Thorpe, however, was treating the matter in deadly seriousness. 
Both Bessell and Holmes tried to laugh him out of it, pointing to the 
practical difficulties, whether of shooting or poisoning, but Thorpe 
was not to be put off, and the matter was left that Holmes should do 
some research into slow-working poisons and report back on his 
findings to Thorpe. 

At this point the court adjourned for the weekend. Mr Bessell’s 
narrative was to be resumed on Monday 14 May. 


Day five: 14 May 1979 

Mr Bessell*s narrative continued 

A few weeks after this meeting, Holmes had done no research into 
slow-working poisons and Thorpe was agitating for further news 
when Mr Bessell heard that Scott had married on 13 May 1969. 
Thorpe was relieved to hear this but thought the “ultimate solu¬ 
tion” might still be necessary. Holmes did not disguise his relief. 

Soon afterwards Mr Bessell was telephoned by Scott who said 
that his wife was pregnant and she could not get maternity benefits 
owing to the absence of his national insurance cards. He was in 
genuine financial trouble and hysterically threatened to sell his story 
to a newspaper. Mr Bessell arranged for some welfare payments to 
be made to him, but avoided discussing the matter with Thorpe for 
fear he would revive the homicide plan. 

Shortly afterwards, Scott and his wife started divorce proceed¬ 
ings. This alarmed both Thorpe and Bessell, since a divorce hearing 
would give Scott another opportunity to refer to his relationship 
with Thorpe. They put Scott in touch with a solicitor, Mr Leonard 
Ross, hoping to keep him quiet. Thorpe kept repeating that the 
position was such as to demand the ultimate solution, and suggested 
that Bessell and Holmes should kill him in Florida. 

Bessell and Holmes pretended to take this seriously, .meeting in 
Florida and even going so far as to buy a toy gun. The judge at this 
point commented, “It sounds crazy.” Mr Bessell replied “I agree, 
sir.” On his return to England, Holmes told Thorpe that the plan 
had failed because Scott did not come out to America, and there the 
matter rested for a time. 

In May 1971 Scott’s divorce was still pending and Mr Bessell was 
still in England when he received a telephone call from Mr Emlyn 
Hooson, the Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire: Mr Hooson had 
learned of Thorpe’s relationship with Scott; he was informing the 
Liberal Chief Whip, Mr David Steel, and expected Thorpe to 


70 


THE LAST WORD 


resign. This incident coincided with the Liberal Party investigation 
of May 1971, which decided to ignore Scott’s allegations. 

Mr Bessell then disappeared froni/the story until 19 January 1976 
when Holmes visited him in Oceanside, California, where he had 
settled after the collapse of his businesses. Holmes told him that 
Scott has been causing trouble in Thorpe’s constituency; more 
recently he had befriended an airline pilot whom he later black¬ 
mailed over a compromising photograph; in the course of an argu¬ 
ment, the pilot had shot Scott’s dog; the pilot was going to be 
charged with this, and there was a danger that Scott would use his 
status as witness to repeat his story of a relationship with Thorpe. 

Holmes told him that Thorpe had consulted with Lord Goodman, 
the well-known solicitor, who had produced a plan of action: 
Mr Bessell should write a letter to Scott’s solicitor, saying that 
Scott had blackmailed him years before. If Scott did not men¬ 
tion Thorpe’s name in the case against the airline pilot, Mr Bessell 
would take no action; but if he did, Mr Bessell would sign an 
affidavit accusing him. The effect of this letter would be to discour¬ 
age Scott from making an outburst against Thorpe in court. 

Mr Bessell was uneasy about this, as the story was untrue and he 
was not prepared to testify on oath. Holmes assured him there was 
no question of this. Mr Bessell said that in any case the press would 
ignore the ravings of a layabout who had taken to blackmail. 
Holmes said that the letters which Mr Bessell had written to Scott, 
accompanying the “retainer” had been preserved by Scott and 
constituted a great danger to Thorpe. Under these circumstances, 
Mr Bessell agreed to write a mendacious letter accusing Scott of 
having blackmailed him. 

Holmes gave him the name of Mr Michael Barnes as the man 
to whom the latter should be written, saying this was Newton’s 
solicitor. He then produced a draft letter in Thorpe’s handwriting 
which Mr Bessell, for various reasons, rejected. He wrote his own 
letter. It said that Scott threatened to expose the fact that Mr Bessell 
was having a relationship with his private secretary, which would 
have been damaging to his family and to his political career. It 
concluded by saying of Scott, “I have no doubt that he is vicious. He 
does not hesitate to turn upon those who have tried to help him.” 

All this was quite untrue. After the letter was written, Holmes 
telephoned Thorpe’s house in England and left a message, presum¬ 
ably with Thorpe’s second wife, Marion: “Mission accomplished.” 

This alarmed Mr Bessell and made him suspicious. On the way to 
take Holmes to the airport, Mr Bessell questioned him further and 






MR PETER BESSELL 


71 


he admitted that he had hired Newton to kill Scott. He said he had 
been persuaded that this was the only solution. 

This made Mr Bessell even more worried about the letter he had 
written. He asked for it back, but was not given it. 

On 1 February 1976 Holmes telephoned Mr Bessell and told him 
that Scott had repeated his allegation about Thorpe before*a social 
security tribunal; the letter was therefore no longer needed and 
could be destroyed. Thorpe had issued a brief statement, on Lord 
Goodman’s advice, denying it. 

Next day Thorpe telephoned Mr Bessell, who told him he was 
going to deny he had ever been blackmailed by Scott - the contents 
of Mr Besselfs letter had already been leaked to the press. Thorpe 
became agitated and begged him not to do so. Mr Bessell told him 
he had already told the Daily Mail that there was no affidavit, no 
document deposited with solicitors. Thorpe replied that eventually 
he would have to sue somebody, and it might as well be the Daily 
Mail. Mr Bessell advised against this reminding him of the outcome 
of the Oscar Wilde libel action against Lord Queensberry, which 
ended with Wilde in prison for sodomy. Thorpe replied, “I know, I 
know,” and sounded very depressed. 

Later Thorpe urged him to make no comment on the grounds that 
he might be called upon to give evidence in a criminal matter. This 
astounded Mr Bessell, who had made it plain that on oath he would 
have to tell the truth. Thorpe agreed that Holmes had hired 
Newton, and in a later telephone conversation about a meeting of 
the Parliamentary Party to discuss his future, said, “It’s hell. I wake 
up every morning with that terrible sick feeling.” 

On 19 February 1976 Thorpe wrote to him begging him not to 
withdraw the Barnes letter, as it would suggest that someone was 
lying. “The press are still being bloody and trying to destroy me,” he 
wrote. “Harold on the other hand, is being quite superb” - a 
reference to the then Prime Minister, Mr Harold Wilson, who was 
on record as believing that the whole case against Thorpe was 
trumped up by South African interests to discredit the Liberal 
Party. 

In May 1976 Mr Bessell met Douglas Thompson of the Daily 
Mail and told him that the Barnes letter - accusing Scott of black¬ 
mailing him - was a lie. His reason for this was that he had heard that 
Scott was suing the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for 
the return of letters handed to Chelsea police station in December 
1962 which provided evidence of Scott’s relationship with Thorpe. 
He decided it would be best for the party to make a clean breast of 


72 


THE LAST WORD 


things. Holmes rang him twice asking him to deny the story, but he 
refused, saying the time had come to tell the truth. He had not 
spoken to Holmes or Thorpe again. 

That ended Mr BesselVs narrative, as it was given in answer to Mr 
Taylor's examination-in-chief at the Old Bailey. The charge against 
Thorpe , of inciting Holmes to murder Scott relied entirely on Mr 
BesselVs uncorroborated evidence. A large part of the case against 
Thorpe on the charge of conspiracy to murder relied on Mr BesselVs 
evidence of earlier conversations with him on this matter and of later 
conversations with Holmes. Reference was also made to a cryptic 
reply by Thorpe in a telephone conversation with Bessell -referred to 
as the “Isaac Foot” answer - which might have been interpreted as an 
admission by Thorpe of involvement in the conspiracy to murder. 
Since it plainly was not so interpreted , was confusing in itself and was 
left more or less hanging in the air by Mr Taylor, I have not even 
included it in my summary of Mr BesselVs evidence. But on the point 
whether the conspiracy was to murder or to frighten, Mr BesselVs 
narrative plainly added weighty circumstantial corroboration to 
Newton's later claim that he was hired to murder Scott, if either could 
be believed. 

One should perhaps emphasise again that the foregoing is Mr 
BesselVs version of events. There is reason to suppose that both 
Thorpe and Holmes would have disputed large parts of it if they had 
chosen to give evidence in their own defence. 



4 

The Agony of Mr Peter Bessell 


Day six: 15 May 1979 

On the previous day, in the course of discussing his disappearance in 
Mexico at a time when* he was having some difficulty with creditors, 
Mr Bessell revealed that he had suffered a suspected coronary 
attack and continued to suffer from emphysema, a form of irrevers¬ 
ible damage to the lung. Many of those in court, when Mr Bessell 
took the stand to face cross-examination, wondered whether he 
would survive the ordeal physically. Any aspect of his past commer¬ 
cial and political life was liable to be thrown in his face in a cross- 
examination which might last up to five days. With his strange, 
croaky voice, slight figure and unusual colouring, he did not inspire 
confidence as being a very robust man. In the relaxed atmosphere of 
Minehead, where everyone wore informal dress in a small court¬ 
room presided over by benign or at any rate impartial magistrates, 
he had borne up very well - occasionally, perhaps, even over¬ 
playing his hand and allowing a slightly peevish note to creep into 
his evidence. In the Old Bailey, before a hostile judge, he never cut 
the same figure. It was as if we were listening to the ghost of a man 
giving a performance which had been carefully rehearsed when the 
body was animated. His memory remained impressive and he made 
few mistakes, but his manner was more that of a penitent seeking 
forgiveness than a prosecution witness. Perhaps he had decided that 
if he was going to destroy his old friend and collaborator Jeremy 
Thorpe he should also destroy himself in the process. It was not an 
attitude which married well with the posture of a man who stood to 
gain a considerable sum of money from his old friend’s conviction. 
A more sympathetic judge might have been impressed by his 
breast-beating readiness to own up to past sins, but a jury composed 
in large part of lower-middle class Londoners was more likely to be 
impressed by the pecuniary aspect. 

Mr Mathew's cross-examination 

Mr Bessell was cross-examined first by Mr John Mathew QC, for 


74 


THE LAST WORD 


Holmes. As a cross-examiner, his manner was frankly old 
fashioned: sneering, hectoring, fixing his eyes at some point in the 
back of the court and repeating questions in a way which insinuated 
that the witness was either trying to evade them or was likely to 
contradict himself second time around. At Minehead, without his 
wig, he seemed a more formidable figure. Mr Bessell answered him 
coolly, for the most part, but his own history was not so straight¬ 
forward as to enable him to meet all Mr Mathew’s innuendoes with 
a simple denial. 

In retrospect , Mr Mathew*s approach was probably the most effec¬ 
tive one with the jury. In the New Statesman interview with an 
unnamed juror after the trial , it emerged that Mr BesselVs financial 
interest in a conviction was what most discredited him. Mr Mathew*s 
constant rehearsal of past untruths and endless reiteration of money 
matters already discussed and agreed obviously impressed the jury. 
But his long , repetitive harangue was tedious for quicker minds in the 
court. 

He began by rehearsing a few of Mr Bessell’s admissions in 
Minehead. 

Mathew: “There are a number of compelling reasons, aren’t 
there, why your evidence should not be believed?” 

Bessell: “I do not accept that, sir.” 

Mathew: “You have told a considerable number of lies about this 
matter over a period of years?” 

Bessell: “Yes, sir, but it was in defence of Mr Thorpe’s position.” 

Mathew: “Do you accept that you have a credibility problem?” 

Bessell: “For the same reasons, yes, sir.” 

Mr Mathew then suggested that Mr Bessell not only had a credi¬ 
bility problem but also every motive to exaggerate and sensational¬ 
ise, since he was making a lot of money out of the case. 

He then referred to the wide immunity given to Mr Bessell, that 
no criminal proceedings would be instituted against him by the 
police or anybody else in respect of anything arising out of the court 
proceedings. He asked Mr Bessell what, exactly, he expected to 
arise out of the court proceedings which might have resulted in a 
prosecution. There must have been a good reason for the immunity, 
he said, and proceeded to suggest a few. Would it not be true to say 
that in January 1974 Mr Bessell had fled from his creditors? 

Bessell: “I disappeared for a time, it is true.” 

Mathew: “That does not answer my question. You fled from your 
creditors?” 

Bessell: “Very well, that is a fair statement.” 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


75 


This was the first sign of the hare on the run , and Mr Mathew was 
on its trail like a very experienced old beagle . 

Mathew: The lamentable last act of a discredited figure, do you 
agree with that relating to you at that time? 

Bessell: Regretfully, I do admit that, sir. 

Mathew: Do you also agree, speaking after you disappeared - a 
discredited politician? 

Bessell: No, sir. 

Mathew: A disastrous businessman? 

Bessell: Yes. Yes, I think that is fair. 

It emerged that Mr Bessell had asked Jack Hayward, the 
Bahamas-based philanthropist, for half a million dollars to bribe an 
American official over a property deal they were both involved in, 
intending to convert the money to his own use. Mr Bessell had been 
more robust about this episode at Minehead, pointing out that 
Thorpe had been involved with him in the attempted fraud. Perhaps 
it was a gentlemanly horror of repeating himself, perhaps he had 
forgotten this aspect, perhaps he did not wish to bring it up for some 
other reason. 

Mathew: “I suggest that you will go to any dishonest lengths to 
get yourself out of your backwoods lifestyle in California, that you 
will go to any dishonest lengths to make money.” 

Bessell: “No, that is not true. What you describe as my back- 
woods life is most unfair with respect to my way of life there.” 

Next Mr Mathew cross-examined him about the book which he 
intended to write. Mr Bessell had entered into a contract with the 
Sunday Telegraph in September 1978 - the month after Thorpe and 
his co-defendants were arrested - by which he would receive 
£50,000 for the serialisation, but only £25,000 if, for legal reasons, 
the newspaper was unable to serialise it - in other words, if Thorpe 
and his three co-defendants were acquitted. 

Mathew: “Mr Newton’s writing a book. Mr Scott’s writing a book 
-everybody’s writing a book, aren’t they? And all trying to make as 
much money as possible out of the drama that is going on in court. 
You’re on that bandwagon, aren’t you?” 

Mr Mathew hammered on with the fact that Mr Bessell stood to 
make more money from a conviction than an acquittal, suggesting 
that his evidence had been concocted with a view to making money. 

Mathew: “And the truth of the matter is that as soon as you 
realised what the press wanted, you embellished, exaggerated and 
lied?” 

Bessell: “No, sir.” 


76 


THE LAST WORD 


Next the suggestion was that Mr Bessell had worked with the two 
journalists, Penrose and Courtiour, to co-ordinate the evidence of 
the Crown witnesses. 

Mathew: “And you knew, Mr Bessell, that these two journalists 
had been going from one witness to another . .. and getting their 
version?” 

Bessell: “At that stage I was not aware of that. All I knew at that 
stage was that they were talking to Sir Harold Wilson.” 

Just as Mr Lewis Hawser had cut in at the Newton trial in March 
1976, so Mr Mathew cut in now to put a stop to the mention of 
another public figure’s name. 

Mathew: “I didn’t ask you about Harold Wilson.” 

Bessell: “I’m sorry.” 

In September 1976, said Mr Bessell, he had composed Yns aide- 
memoire of 100 closely typed pages about the Thorpe case, but he 
disputed that he had written it for the purposes of drafting a book. 
At this point the judge chose to intervene. In case the jury had been 
in any doubt about his attitude to Mr Bessell’s evidence, he thought 
they should be given a further clue. 

“You must have written the aide-memoire for some purpose,” 
observed Mr Justice Cantley in what might be described as a voice 
of cheerful scepticism. 

Mr Bessell replied that he wrote it to remind himself of events; in 
the event of his death, it would be available for others. It was not for 
the prime purpose of writing a book. Mr Mathew resumed his 
cross-examination. 

The only lies Mr Bessell could remember telling to Penrose and 
Courtiour were about some connections he might have had in 
Washington. 

These provide the most puzzling and least satisfactory section of 
The Pencourt File, seeming to suggest that Mr Bessell had relations 
with the CIA or some other United States Security Agency. It is an 
aspect of the case which has never been explained satisfactorily, one 
way or the other. 

Mathew: “Would you agree that you were working fairly closely 
with them on their book?” 

Bessell: “Yes, sir. But you have read that out of context. You 
were referring - because I know the phrase - to a letter I wrote to 
Lady Falkender.” 

Mathew: “It may well have come from a letter.” 

So great was his respect for public figures that Mr Mathew seemed 
unable to get the name of Sir Harold Wilson s personal secretary past 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


77 


his lips , but he proceeded to read from the letter which Mr Bessell had 
written her . 

At one point Mr Bessell had used the word “exaggeration” to 
describe a statement which could, he later admitted, be more accu¬ 
rately described as a “lie.” Mr Mathew made merry for a time of this 
use of “exaggeration.” 

Mathew: “Was it not typical of your ‘exaggeration,’ Mr Bessell, 
when you recounted how Mr Holmes pretended to be a reporter 
from a German newspaper in order to trick Scott out of two 
letters?” 

Mr Bessell denied this. Mr Mathew went on to suggest that there 
might have been some light-hearted banter about getting rid of 
Scott, but nothing of a serious nature was ever said. 

Bessell: “I cannot accept that. It was a serious proposition.” 

Mathew: “Why didn’t you take it seriously, Mr Bessell?” 

Bessell: “I accept that I should have taken it a great deal more 
seriously.” 

Mathew: “Why didn’t you take it seriously, Mr Bessell?” 

Eventually Mr Bessell replied that it was his knowledge of 
Thorpe’s character which prevented him from taking it seriously. 

Mathew: “Why didn’t you do something about it?” 

Bessell: “I recognise it was irresponsible of me not to have taken 
some action at the outset. But I hoped and believed that Holmes 
and I would succeed in persuading Thorpe that this was a nonsensi¬ 
cal plan ... I accept that I perhaps should have taken some other 
action, but I did not.” 

Perhaps this passage conveys in some manner how the Mathew 
method of repeating a question worked on Mr Bessell to induce the 
-confessional spirit . 

Mr Mathew then pointed out a few inconsistencies between what 
Mr Bessell had originally told Penrose and Courtiour and what he 
later said in court. To the observer, they did not seem important to 
the main story, but Mr Bessell accepted that he had made mistakes 
when talking to the journalists before compiling his recollections. 
Pushed further by Mr Mathew, he accepted that it was “absolutely 
contrary to what he had sworn as true facts to the jury.” 

Mathew: “There was much more at stake later - serialisation 
rights, the book, money - all sorts of things had entered into it.” 

Mr Mathew thought he had discovered a most important incon¬ 
sistency in Mr Bessell’s original account (to Penrose and Courtiour) 
of his first discussion with Thorpe about Scott. In the earlier version, 
this had taken place at Thorpe’s flat, in the later versions - sworn on 


78 


THE LAST WORD 


oath - in Thorpe’s room at the House of Commons. From this Mr 
Mathew moved on and questioned various details of his account of 
meeting Holmes in America over the Barnes letter. The careless 
listener might have supposed that these details, too, were disputed 
by an independent witness. 

Next, Mr Bessell was asked about his attitude to Thorpe and 
Holmes after the alleged murder attempt. Why had he continued 
helping them after he had decided they were guilty of attempted 
murder? Mr Mathew quoted a statement of Mr Bessell on 
American television in August 1978: 

“It comes down to ... a very simple issue. What he [Thorpe] did 
was to arrange for a friend of his, David Holmes, to hire a gunman to 
do that which Jeremy Thorpe could not do himself - kill Norman 
Scott. Against this background, the issue of personal loyalty does 
not arise. Whether it is the assassination of Thomas a Becket, Julius 
Caesar, John F. Kennedy or even Norman Scott, it is still one person 
depriving another of his life and that is a crime which in a civilised 
society is intolerable.” 

Mr Bessell explained that these had become his sentiments after 
May 1976, but it took him a long time to come to terms with the 
question of whether personal loyalty took precedence over the 
nature of his crime. Of an earlier occasion, when he had twice told 
Thorpe that he was anxious to do anything he could to help, Mr 
Bessell said: 

“It is hard, I know, to explain it, but my regard and affection for 
Thorpe were, at that stage, unaltered. I was appalled by what 
happened. I wanted to put it out of my mind. I wanted to concen¬ 
trate on the fact that Scott was alive and unharmed and I did not 
want to destroy a friendship which I valued. It was very wrong and 
irresponsible of me, but that is what I did.” 

One began to wonder whether Mr BesselVs irreversible 
deterioration of the lungs would be much improved by all this 
breast-b eating. 

Mr Mathew drew attention to the tapes of telephone conversa¬ 
tions between him and Holmes of April 1976, in which Bessell 
urged Holmes to “take good care” of himself and described him as 
“a good and faithful servant of our friend.” Mr Mathew suggested 
these were “total hypocrisy.” Mr Bessell agreed. 

Tapes were now produced, so judge and barristers laboriously 
prepared to put on earphones to listen to them. They cannot have 
liked what they heard. Once again important names were being 
bandied around. Holmes, in Manchester, was talking to Bessell, in 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


79 


California, complaining that newspapers had got hold of the fact 
that he was refusing to make a statement to the police. 

Holmes: ‘‘Bear in mind that I only talked to the Deputy Director 
of Public Prosecutions, and then at his request, not a statement but 
just a talk.” 

Holmes maintained that the newspapermen could have 
heard from only two people, and added: “Nothing would make me 
believe that the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions had 
done it.” 

Bessell: “Are you doing anything about that? I mean, is 
anybody?” 

Holmes: “Well I am not, but Harold is.” 

Bessell: “Yes, that will do. That will do very nicely.” 

Holmes: “Because he is furious ” 

Bessell: “Yes.” 

Holmes: “What is more, my statement was vetted by him twice 
... he was, er, could not have been more helpful, not with me, but I 
used David Freeman who is his solicitor as well as . . .” 

Bessell: “Of course he is.” 

Holmes: “I could not use the other obvious candidate because a 
mutual friend is using him.” 

Bessell: “You mean Goodman?” 

Holmes: “Yes.” 

Needless to say , no questions were asked about this passage. What 
it seems to mean , if it means anything , is that Holmes was claiming his 
statement had been read and altered by Sir Harold Wilson , the newly 
resigned Prime Minister, to whom it had been shown by their 
common solicitor. Mr David Freeman. Lord Goodman , of course , 
stopped representing Thorpe shortly afterwards. 

Later, Bessell asked: “Goodman is still holding his hand?” 

Holmes: “Absolutely.” 

Holmes went on: “I have deliberately emerged in the last two 
days as being a total fool.” 

Bessell: “Yes, which is very wise. I think you are right.” 

Holmes: “Yes, absolutely. I mean, we decided that this is how I 
would play it. To look at my interviews, anyone would think I was 
ga-ga.” 

Bessell: “No, I do not think that. I am sure they would not think 
that.” 

Holmes: “You need not be polite. It was quite deliberate on my 
part.” 

In a second, twenty-minute tape, Mr Bessell mentioned that Jack 


80 


THE LAST WORD 


Hayward had got his address, and Holmes told him: “We are 
actively defusing him/’ 

Towards the end of the conversation, Mr Bessell delivered a 
moving encomium to Holmes: “David, you have been through a 
tough time and we have been very sorry for you. It is indeed difficult 
when you have to take what you have had to take. You have been, to 
use a sentimental term, a good and faithful servant to our friend. I 
do not mean that in a belittling way, but I mean in the sense that you 
have been a most honourable friend and you do not deserve to 
suffer.” 

One part of this exchange of 20 April 1976 was seized upon with a 
certain glee by Private Eye magazine and printed in its issue of 25 
May 1979. 

Bessell: “I have been really anxious on your behalf.” 

Holmes: “Well, that’s extremely nice of you. There is one mar¬ 
vellous piece of news about that. Jimmy Goldsmith has actually got 
criminal libel proceedings against Private Eye." 

Bessell: “Oh really?” 

Holmes: “It would have been a major criminal offence.” 

Bessell: “Yes of course it would. Oh my God, that would finish 
them, which would cause me no grief.” 

Holmes: “Not only against the editor, but against every member 
of staff, every member of the Board, and every distributor.” 

Bessell: “Yes, good. Well, that may close them down. You say it 
has reduced them by seventy per cent?” 

Holmes: “That has cheered me immensely . . .” 

Holmes: “My solicitor, Freeman, says there is no point in suing 
unless you are going to do exactly what whatsisname is doing - there 
is no point in starting.” 

Bessell: “Right.” 

Holmes: “He has to be a very rich man to sue that number of 
people.” 

Bessell: “Right, exactly.” 

Holmes: “Goldsmith, mercifully, is a multi-millionaire, so he is 
going to do it.” 

Bessell: “Good, well that’s splendid. That’s splendid. More 
power to his elbow.” 

Holmes: “I know. That cheered me up no end.” 

Bessell: “Yes, I should think so.” 

When Mr Mathew handed the witness over to Mr Carman , he had 
re-established the familiar fact of Mr Bessells pecuniary interest in a 
conviction and he had established a few fairly unimportant inconsis - 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


81 


tencies between Mr BesselVs earlier account of events to journalists 
and his later account to the court on oath . He had succeeded in 
throwing a certain amount of dirt at Mr Bessell , to prompt the 
suspicion that the witness might be a double-dyed villain , prepared to 
send an old colleague to prison on a trumped up charge in order to 
sell the false story to newspapers afterwards , and he had left hanging 
in the air, incompletely explained , the question of how Mr BesselVs 
attitude to Thorpe had changed from the “dear and wonderful 
friend” of 4 February 1976 - after the alleged murder attempt - to 
someone about whom he was determined to tell the bitter truth in May 
of the same year. But so far as his client Holmes was concerned , he 
had failed to shake Mr Bessell from his central assertion f that “the 
question of frightening Mr Scott never arose at any time during the 
conversation I had with your client” Since the essence of Holmes's 
defence was that the admitted conspiracy was to frighten , not to kill , 
Mr Mathew's cross-examination might be judged inconclusive in any 
ideal state where the jury was intelligent and the judge had an open 
mind as to facts and was concerned only to establish the truth. But in 
an imperfect world , where the scales of justice must be unevenly 
balanced , as Mr Carman put it in his opening submissions , in favour 
of the accused , Mr Mathew had probably managed to sow a little 
doubt in the mind of the jury. Mr Bessell had no advocate present to 
argue the improbability of the defence's explanation , that three 
key witnesses concocted a false charge in order to sell the details 
of it in books and newspaper articles . The central question left in the 
mind of the jury was whether or not they trusted Mr Bessell , which 
is not quite the same thing as whether or not he was telling the 
truth. 

But the most important effect of Mr Mathew's bullying tactics , his 
sneers , innuendoes and imputations of improper motive at every 
point , was to soften up the witness for his next ordeal , when Mr 
Bessell faced two and a half days' cross-examination by George 
Carman QC f representing Jeremy Thorpe. 

Mr Carman's cross-examination 

Mr Carman started by probing Mr Bessell’s relationship with 
Thorpe. The witness agreed that Thorpe was a dedicated MP, a 
distinguished and successful leader of the Liberal Party. In the past, 
they had been loyal friends. Thorpe had done many kindnesses to 
Mr Bessell, including helping him when he was in business difficul¬ 
ties and, with his wife Marion, giving Mr Bessell’s wife a home when 
he was in America. Thorpe was a popular MP in the House of 


82 


THE LAST WORD 


Commons who was “totally stricken with grief” when his first wife 
was tragically killed. 

There were four possible reasons for Mr Bessell’s voluntary 
return to England to give evidence, said Mr Carman. The first was a 
sense of justice; the second, loyalty to the Liberal Party; the third, 
revenge; the fourth, money. Mr Bessell accepted the first two, 
denied the last two. 

Mr Carman then began to discuss Mr Bessell’s character. Mr 
Bessell said he had tried to be honourable and now regarded himself 
as an honourable man. He did not think “hypocrite” a fair descrip¬ 
tion, although he had occasionally told lies. He accepted that his 
attempt to defraud a benefactor of the Liberal Party was not a loyal 
action. He agreed that he was a lay preacher at the same time as 
knowing of the Liberal leader’s serious proposal to murder another 
human being. 

Carman: “Did that trouble your conscience?” 

Bessell: “No, sir, it did not.” 

Carman: “Did you not feel it was your duty to tell the party that 
its leader was a man intent on murder?” 

Bessell: “My first loyalty was to Thorpe. I thought it could be 
prevented. I saw no purpose in seeking to damage his career in that 
way.” 

Carman: “Didn’t you think Mr Thorpe must have needed to see a 
psychiatrist?” 

Bessell: “Yes, I suppose that is true.” 

Mr Bessell had not done anything about it, however, he said. Mr 
Carman enlarged on the witness’s “incredible attitude” before pro¬ 
ducing what was to prove the surprise of the afternoon. 

Carman: “A lot of things you have done are incredible and 
disgraceful are they not? Let us pass on to something even more 
totally incredible. Before Mr Thorpe, on your account of the 
matter, had in mind sending Mr Scott to his death in 1971, in the 
United States, you have asserted he proposed the murder of 
another person to you in 1970?” 

Bessell: “Yes, sir.” 

Carman: “A man called Hetherington?” 

Bessell: “Yes, sir.” 

Mr Carman wittily added that this man Hetherington was not to 
be confused with the present Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir 
Thomas “Tony” Hetherington. This provoked a burst of sycophan¬ 
tic laughter from every quarter , but Mr Carman never told the court 
who Hetherington was or why Thorpe wanted him murdered. Readers 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


83 


of The Pencourt File might have remembered that he was a black- 
mailer who had knowledge of the Scott affair just before the 1970 
election and whom Mr Bessell, by his account, had paid and fright¬ 
ened away by a ruse. But so far as the jury was concerned, his name 
was left hanging in the air, as an example of Mr Bessells preposterous 
allegations about his former friend. Psychologically, this was prob¬ 
ably a shrewd move by Mr Carman: if the jury were prepared to 
believe Thorpe capable of arranging the murder of Scott, they might 
equally well believe him capable of arranging to murder Hethering- 
ton. By approaching it from the other side -the prosecution offered 
no evidence on the Hetherington allegation and did not include it in 
their charges against Thorpe - Mr Carman hoped to cast doubt on the 
conspiracy to murder Scott. 

Mr Bessell seemed surprised that Hetherington’s name had been 
mentioned. This made one wonder whether he had not been wrongly 
told of some agreement between prosecution and defence to exclude 
the name of Hetherington, as being of no advantage to either side. 

Carman: “If your evidence has a vestige of truth, the leader of the 
Liberal Party had proposed the death not only of Norman Scott but 
of another person . . . this time it was not the unfortunate Mr 
Holmes but you who were to be the assassin?’’ 

Bessell: “That is correct.’’ 

Carman: “What steps did you take to acquaint the Liberal Party, 
police, doctors, Mrs Thorpe, with the fact that the leader of the 
Liberal Party was insane?’’ 

Bessell: “None, sir.” 

Carman: “Yet when he got his vote of confidence in 1976 you 
were delighted?” 

Bessell: “Yes, sir.” 

Carman: “Does this make you a thoroughly amoral person?” 

Bessell: “I think it does.” 

Carman: “If you were publicly preaching Christianity, add 
hypocrite?” 

Bessell: “Yes.” 

Carman: “Amoral, hypocrite, liar - is that not a scoundrel?” 

Mr Bessell did not think so. There were limits to his self- 
abasement. Earlier, he had even managed to produce one fairly 
spirited reply. When questioned on whether the morality of the Ten 
Commandments - “Thou Shalt not Kill* -troubled him, he replied: 
“If the morality of it had not, sir, I would not be in this place at this 
time.” 

But the truth was apparent, that Mr Carman had a cowed Mr 


84 


THE LAST WORD 


Bessell eating out of his hand. Time and again he coaxed these 
admissions which, offered in a penitential spirit, became extremely 
damaging to the prosecution case when repeated by Mr Carman later. 
For a time, it seemed touch and go whether Mr Bessell would own up 
to being a scoundrel. 

Mr Carman next took the witness through an episode when he 
had apparently been involved with a claim on the Romanov millions 
with someone who might have been a descendant of Tsar Nicholas 
II. Had Mr Bessell claimed to be a friend of Henry Kissinger? No, 
an acquaintance. Dr Kissinger later denied this. Next, Mr Carman 
took us, step by step, through Bessell’s earlier career. 

Now fifty-nine, he went to school in Bath and was eighteen when 
war broke out. 

Carman: “Did you fight during the war?” 

No, Mr Bessell had first registered as a conscientious objector. 
Later he asked for his name to be removed from the register, 
lectured on music to the armed forces, then went into the tailoring 
business, which was a reserved occupation. After a period in dry- 
cleaning he went into property development with an office in New 
York and driving a Cadillac. His commercial world shattered in the 
early 1970s. Mr Carman continued to question him about the lies he 
had told; he said he may have told some on minor matters but not in 
relation to this case. 

Carman: “Have you told any whoppers since 1976?” 

Bessell: “Not to my knowledge.” 

Carman: “You have told quite a few in this case, haven’t 
you?” 

Bessell: “No.” 

Mr Carman then asked Mr Justice Cantley if that would be a 
convenient time to adjourn. The time was 4.15 pm - exactly the 
same time as the judge had himself adjourned the trial, on his own 
initiative, at the end of the third day. Mr Bessell had been giving 
evidence all day, as well as on the previous two days, but on this 
occasion the judge decided otherwise. 

“Oh, I think we have got time for one whopper if you like.” 

Mr Justice Cantley , it would appear , needed no convincing by this 
stage. His use of the word “whopper** when Mr Carman had just used 
it to describe evidence the witness had already given, shows a robust 
independence of mind, of course. It also left the jury in no doubt what 
he thought of the witness*s evidence. Perhaps it did not occur to the 
judge that in his duty to give Thorpe the benefit of every possible 
doubt he also had a duty to be fair to Mr Bessell. Or perhaps it was 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


85 


simply the case that he had made up his mind and felt confident that 
he knew best. 

At the end of the sixth day, the first rumours went round journal¬ 
ists attending the trial that neither Thorpe nor Holmes was going to 
give evidence. I scribbled the rumour in my notebook, adding: 
“Surely false.” 


Day seven: 16 May 1979 

“We have dealt with your character as a liar outside the court. I now 
want to very firmly put to you a lie you have told on oath in this 
court, reminding you of course, that you are not immune from 
perjury,” began Mr Carman on the second day of his cross- 
examination of Mr Bessell. 

People in court sat forward on their seats, but nothing very 
dramatic emerged from this opening. The day was to be devoted to a 
process of attrition, constantly denouncing Mr Bessell as a liar, 
weaving together lies he had told on minor or irrelevant matters 
with statements he had made about Thorpe to suggest that the two 
should be given the same value. A further theme of the day’s cross- 
examination was that Mr Bessell was betraying a friend for money. 

The first alleged lie on oath concerned a very minor matter - 
whether he had insisted on the journalists Penrose and Courtiour 
being present through his first series of interviews with Chief 
Superintendent Challes. Mr Bessell explained that the reason he 
wanted them present was that he had been unhappy about the 
earlier police investigation. He failed to see how the question of 
perjury arose. 

“You may in a moment,” said Mr Carman threateningly. It 
turned out that there may have been a difference of recollection 
between the police officer and the witness about the degree of 
insistence involved. 

Mr Carman then moved to another subject: the suggestion by 
Penrose and Courtiour that Bessell should co-author a book with 
them. 

Carman: “You were giving house-room to the journalists who 
proposed to you to write a book, to share the spoils of the book, 
which was to follow on the trial and imprisonment of a former dear 
and loyal friend.” 

He then returned to the Sunday Telegraph contract, pointing out 
yet again how it was worth £25,000 on an acquittal, £50,000 on a 
conviction. 


86 


THE LAST WORD 


Carman: “It’s what you might call in popular language a ‘double 
your money’ contract. Half on acquittal and double on conviction.” 

Bessell: “I accept that.” 

It may have been tedious for those of us in court to listen to this 
repetition , but Mr Carman was almost certainly right to repeat it . A 
juror who was interviewed in the New Statesman after the case 
revealed that this point impressed him conclusively in his assessment 
of Mr BesselVs evidence. According to the two writers of this article, 
“Peter Bessell - just as many observers calculated he must be - was by 
this means almost wholly destroyed as a credible witness” The juror 
spoke to them of “the difference of twenty-five grand on a conviction. 
This was very important. I wrote it in big letters on one page - ‘Half 
Price Acquittal’... It impressed me a great deal. I think it must have 
impressed the others.” 

To anybody outside Britain, and to most people inside it, the 
Sunday Telegraph's contract will be incomprehensible unless they 
have studied the scope and application of Britain’s libel laws. These 
would forbid the publication of Mr Bessell’s testimony outside the 
privileged circumstance of court proceedings unless it had been 
found proven in the court. 

Earlier, Mr Carman had made much of the value of the contract, 
despite Mr Bessell’s evidence that he would see very little of the 
£50,000. It worked out at £1.66 per word, said Mr Carman, or 
about the industrial weekly wage per paragraph: “Do you still say 
that money doesn’t play any part in your coming to England?” 

Once again Mr Bessell was asked if it did not prick his conscience 
to make a contract to write about someone he had earlier described 
as a true and faithful friend. 

Bessell: “No, sir, it did not. I would not have been here if I had not 
believed it was my responsibility to give evidence which must 
inevitably, if it is believed, contribute towards a conviction.” 

Carman: “Does it not prick your conscience to have entered into 
a contract by which you and your family achieve double the money 
on the conviction of a former true and loyal friend?” 

Bessell: “Yes, it does.” 

Carman: “You are prepared to betray a friend for money, aren’t 
you?” 

Bessell: “I think that is an overstatement.” 

After persisting in the suggestion that Mr Bessell, like another 
witness (Newton) to be heard later, was “in the case to milk it for all 
it is worth,” Mr Carman turned to the details of the witness’s 
financial record. His creditors had been persuaded to settle for 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


87 


seventeen and a half per cent at the time he had disappeared in 
Mexico. So the Sunday Telegraph money must assume some promi¬ 
nence in his financial affairs, suggested Mr Carman. 

Bessell: “Yes, sir.” 

Mr Carman suggested that Mr Bessell’s status as a potential 
witness had made the book potentially more profitable. 

Bessell: “I think that is undeniable. I accept that.” 

Carman: “Your role as witness enhances your chance of selling 
the book?” 

Bessell: “That is fair comment.” 

He maintained that money played no part in his decision to give 
evidence but agreed that giving evidence provided additional 
opportunity to publish a profitable book. 

Mr Carman read a long letter which Mr Bessell had written to 
Lady Falkender on 22 July 1978 - a fortnight before Thorpe was 
arrested - about the book he was proposing to write. First, he 
discussed his relationship with Penrose and Courtiour, then the 
effect of the case on Sir Harold Wilson. 

The Jeremy Thorpe affair is likely to be long drawn out and 
may assume almost vast proportions before we are all through 
with it. 

Therefore it follows that Sir Harold’s role will be mulled over - 
perhaps mauled over is a better term - for decades. 

I am convinced, based on my long and intimate knowledge of 
Jeremy, that in his fear and despair, and sad though it is, he 
ruthlessly misused and misled Sir Harold. I intend to make this 
point as strongly as I am able and to do it in a way that does not 
imply I am merely a star-struck admirer of Sir Harold’s. In 
addition I want to quote some of Sir Harold’s conversations with 
Pencourt as no more than samples of his sense of humour and 
willingness to take people on trust. In my view it would be tragic if 
Sir Harold’s role should become a matter of needless and mis¬ 
chievous speculation. All the same, I am quite determined that 
my book shall be factual and able to resist any challenge. 

I have, of course, a credibility problem largely of my own 
making, partly of Jeremy’s, and I must therefore be abnormally 
careful in my writing. 

The letter suggested that he might send parts of his manuscript 
that referred to Sir Harold Wilson and that Lady Falkender might 
supply “appropriate suggestions and corrections.” 

Mr Carman revealed that Lady Falkender had passed the letter 


88 


THE LAST WORD 


straight to Thorpe’s solicitors. He suggested that the letter showed 
an intention to sensationalise the book for greater profit. Mr Bessell 
agreed that one of the book’s themes was that there had been a 
widespread cover-up of Thorpe’s activities, and Mr Carman asked 
who it was, in addition to Sir Harold Wilson, who might be impli¬ 
cated in such an alleged cover-up. 

Carman: “He is in very good company indeed, in some of the 
names you purport to implicate or involve in that cover-up. I am 
going to give, I hope responsibly, a comprehensive list. The list, I 
make it clear in open court, is an indication of your wicked irrespon¬ 
sibility in order to make money. I am going to give you a list of 
people you have potentially in your book.” 

The tone of Mr Carman’s remarks might seem to give support to 
earlier suspicions that all the counsel involved had received the 
firmest possible instructions - not to say warnings - from the judge 
not to bandy around names of men in public life - the great and the 
good - in such a way as to smear them. As Mr Carman went through 
his list, Mr Bessell indicated whether they might find themselves 
named in his book: 

“The Director of Public Prosecutions?” - “No.” 

“Lord Rawlinson, the former Attorney-General?” - “No.” 

“Scotland Yard?” - “Yes.” 

“Mrs Thatcher, the Prime Minister?” - “Just mentioned.” 

Carman: “Is the Sunday Times mentioned, and does it attract 
special venom?” 

Bessell: “No, I accept that the Sunday Times may well have been 
misled and misquoted. I have made the point abundantly clear.” 

“Sir Frank Soskice, the former Home Secretary?” - “Yes, but 
exonerated from any cover-up.” 

“Mr Reginald Maudling, another former Home Secretary?” - “I 
reported what I was told.” 

Carman: “I am merely trying to demonstrate to what lengths you 
are prepared to go to make your book sensational.” 

Bessell:-“I am trying to show how mistaken you are.” 

“Lord Goodman?” - “Just in Holmes’s report of him.” 

Bessell: “Lord Goodman will have no cause for complaint.” 

Carman: “No doubt Lord Goodman will be relieved to hear 
that.” 

This produced laughter in the court, because Lord Goodman had 
issued a blanket denial and given an indignant interview to the Daily 
Telegraph in which he talked of Mr Bessell’s “demented allega¬ 
tions” during the Minehead committal proceedings. Mr Bessell was 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


89 


purporting to describe only what Holmes had told him about Lord 
Goodman’s role. 

Other, less important names were suggested, including Mr David 
Ennals, the former Secretary of State for Social Services, but Mr 
Bessell said they either were not named or were exonerated of any 
impropriety. 

Mr Carman now turned to a study of Mr Bessell’s political record, 
suggesting he was “a good Janus, capable of facing both ways.” 

Carman: “You can be all things to all men at the same time.” 

Bessell: “Yes, to some extent that is true.” 

The examples which Mr Carman provided of Mr Bessell facing 
both ways were fascinating. In 1967, during the Liberal Party 
leadership contest between Liberal MPs, he had assured both 
Thorpe and Emlyn Hooson of his support. He explained this by his 
hesitations about Thorpe’s homosexual record, and said he later 
withdrew his support for Hooson and reverted to Thorpe. Then in 
1968, said Mr Carman, Bessell did “a most extraordinary thing.” 

Carman: “As a Liberal MP you made informal approaches to the 
Labour and Conservative chief whips at about the same time with a 
view to joining one of the other parties.” 

When Mr Bessell admitted that he had, indeed, held these infor¬ 
mal talks, the court collapsed in laughter. Only those who live 
reasonably close to the British Parliament, with its rigid two-party 
system, will be able to appreciate how extraordinarily funny this 
admission was. Mr Bessell put quite a brave face on it, saying that 
both these chief whips were interested in converting him. He 
pointed out that others had crossed the floor of the house, naming 
Mr Reg Prentice, a former Cabinet minister in the Labour Govern¬ 
ment, then serving as a junior minister under Mrs Thatcher. 

Yes, yes, said the judge, leaning forward. He quite understood 
that and also that Mr Bessell might be seeking conversion to one 
side or the other. “It is the oscillation which interests me,” he said, 
and the court collapsed again. 

This was the first moment of pure merriment since the start of the 
proceedings, and although few newspapers bothered to report it 
next day, it added nothing to the figure - whether dignified or 
penitential - which Mr Bessell was trying to cut in court. 

Mr Carman next took the Crown witness through a long series of 
lies which he had told - and agreed he had told - to protect Thorpe 
from the consequences of his homosexual activities. Among them 
were lies to Scott - pretending to disbelieve his story - to Father 
Sweetman, Scott’s mentor in Dublin - pretending Scott had 


90 


THE LAST WORD 


admitted there was no truth in his allegations about Thorpe - and to 
numerous parliamentary colleagues. 

Mr Justice Cantley, exhilarated, perhaps, by the success of his 
little joke about the oscillating politician, seemed to take over the 
cross-examination at one point, suggesting that Mr Bessell had 
never before mentioned these attempts to discourage Scott. Mr 
Bessell would not have needed to be very sensitive, one felt, to guess 
that the judge did not believe them now, which was odd, as there 
were letters to prove the point. 

Mr Bessell said he had told Sir Frank Soskice, then the Home 
Secretary, that he thought Scott’s allegations about Thorpe were 
probably true. He said the same to various MPs but denied it to 
others. 

Reverting to the Hetherington story of the day before, Mr 
Carman commented on the ruses which Mr Bessell claimed to 
have used against the blackmailer: “You seem almost unable to 
talk to any human being on any matter of consequence without 
introducing a lie.” He described Mr Bessell’s account of the 
Hetherington episode as an Alice in Wonderland version, and the 
judge interrupted at one point to ask Mr Bessell, poker-faced, 
whether he had in fact murdered Hetherington. 

Carman: “If the jury are to believe at all that the leader of the 
Liberal Party had seriously proposed to you not one but two mur¬ 
ders -1 suggest it is a figment of your imagination - you must have 
thought you had a ghastly maniac leading the Liberal Party.” 

Bessell: “Yes, at one stage I thought Mr Thorpe had a crazy, sick 
obsession about murder.” 

Carman: “I thought you said he was a man of the highest political 
integrity ... you cannot lead a political party in the House of 
Commons and spend your time plotting murders as well and do both 
jobs properly.” 

Mr Bessell again regretted that he had put his loyalty to Thorpe 
before what was clearly his duty. Mr Carman suggested that the only 
conversations between the two about murdering people had been 
light-hearted fantasies, and Mr Bessell denied this again. 

Carman: “You haven’t left out any other murder proposals have 
you? You are not going to tell us of a third or fourth murder 
proposal tomorrow are you?” 

Bessell: “No, sir.” 

On that light-hearted note, the court adjourned for the day. This 
powerful line of defence does not explain how a conspiracy of some 
sort definitely arose - whether or not Thorpe was party to it -or how a 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


91 


dog was shot and a man frightened out of his wits on Porlock Moor 
by someone who claimed to have been hired to murder him . Indeed 
no attempt was ever made to reconcile the extreme unlikelihood of a 
leading politician being involved in a criminal conspiracy to protect 
himself with the fact that a criminal conspiracy of some sort or 
another had definitely been formed for the purpose - with or without 
Thorpe's knowledge. But at this stage we did not know that Holmes, 
at least, would have pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to 
frighten. This was not finally revealed until after the verdict, when Mr 
Mathew was pleading for his client's costs. 

But this more light-hearted approach may have impressed the 
judge, whose summing up at the end of the day was accompanied with 
many smiles, nods and mysterious little chuckles. 


Day eight: 17 May 1979 

The third day of Mr Bessell’s cross-examination opened dramati¬ 
cally with Mr Carman producing a copy of the Western Morning 
News dated 16 June 1970 which proved Mr Bessell had got his dates 
wrong over his claimed payment of £170 to the blackmailer 
Hetherington. It showed a photograph of Mr Bessell standing with 
Thorpe and another Liberal MP on a political platform with the 
headline “Thorpe Calls Powell ‘Stark, Staring Bonkers’.” Earlier, 
Mr Bessell had said he could not remember standing with Thorpe 
on a political platform at that time. 

Carman: “It takes a long time to nail down some of your lies. Do 
you now agree that your story about meeting Hetherington is a lie?” 

Mr Carman then reminded the witness - at some length - about 
a further lapse of his memory, when he originally told Penrose 
and Courtiour that it had been in Thorpe’s flat that the murder 
of Norman Scott was first discussed. 

Mr Bessell then discussed his addiction to the sleeping drug, 
Mandrax. This had muddled his moral values at the time of his 
attempted fraud on Jack Hayward, he said. Mr Hayward had once 
contributed £150,000 to the Liberal Party, and Mr Bessell involved 
himself in a scheme to sell Mr Hayward’s interests in the Bahamas 
to the Mobil Oil Corporation for something between $70 and $90 
million. Mr Bessell had asked for $700,000 to pay an American 
commission, intending to keep the money for his own use. He had 
untruthfully said the money was needed to pay a broker called 
George Lawrence, on the staff of Senator Buckley, a Conservative 
from New York who was close to Nixon. Thorpe was aware of this 


92 


THE LAST WORD 


fraud, said Mr Bessell, and had indeed proposed it, but did not stand 
to gain anything by it. 

Carman: “That, I suggest, is another very wicked invention by 
you. Mr Thorpe was totally deceived by you at that time, as well as 
Mr Hayward, I suggest.” 

Mr Bessell repeated that there was no selfish motive so far as 
Thorpe was concerned. Mr Carman took him through a couple of 
letters he had written to Thorpe at this time - one of them, said Mr 
Bessell, was written for Thorpe to show to Mr Hayward - asking 
him, sentence by sentence, whether the sentence was true, false, or 
partly true. By my count , the letter contained one true statement , four 
which were either untrue or partly untrue . 

After this exercise, Mr Bessell was back in his penitential mood. 
Not for the first time, one found oneself admiring the skill with 
which Mr Carman was handling him. 

Carman: “So you deserved to be put behind bars, did you, in 
January 1974?” 

Bessell: “Yes. What I had done in respect of Mr Hayward was in 
my view totally unforgivable, inexcusable, and therefore deserving 
punishment.” 

Carman: “Did you use Mr Thorpe as the innocent dupe to your 
fraud?” 

Bessell: “No I did not. It had been agreed between us.” 

Carman: “That puts you not only in the role of a liar but you are 
back again as a hypocrite?” 

Bessell: “No, I should have rejected the idea. I should not have 
allowed Mr Thorpe or myself to have any part in this disgraceful, 
inexcusable, totally damnable episode.” 

Carman: “Mr Bessell, I do not wish you to use this box as a 
confessional box, I just want to find out the truth of what you say 
and the extent that your evidence can be relied upon ” 

Bessell: “I am sorry, sir. I was merely expressing the emotion of 
the moment.” 

After the lunch break, Mr Carman returned to the Hayward 
fraud. 

Carman: “Would it be a fair assessment to say that you had 
demonstrated you are a man capable of consummate deviousness in 
his business and personal activities?” 

Bessell: “I have to reply that you have shown undoubtedly that I 
have been guilty of deviousness, that I have been guilty of quite 
disgraceful behaviour.” 

Mr Carman asked the witness what he thought of Norman Scott, 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


93 


who was to be the next witness. Had Mr Bessell discovered him to 
be a liar? 

Mr Bessell said Scott was a pathetic creature who nearly always 
had a hard luck story; he tended to exaggerate his misfortunes, and 
was always putting the blame for his own weaknesses or misfortunes 
on someone else, Mr Bessell felt. He had also found him to be 
financially dishonest. 

This was a strange, inconsequential passage towards the end of 
the cross-examination. In other moods and at other times Mr 
Bessell had seemed to speak of Scott with greater affection than 
this. It was almost as if, after nearly ten hours of giving evidence, he 
was saying exactly what Mr Carman wanted him to say. 

Mr Carman then turned to various newspaper articles about him, 
most particularly the extraordinary pieces which appeared in the 
Sunday Times on 14 March 1976, where, on the front page, Jeremy 
Thorpe had attacked Norman Scott as an “incorrigible liar” under 
the leading headline “The Lies of Norman Scott,” and inside a 
full-page article had described Mr Bessell as a scoundrel who was 
probably being blackmailed by Scott over some commercial mal¬ 
practice. This article appeared two days before Scott was due to give 
evidence at the trial of Newton, in Exeter. Mr Bessell agreed that he 
was “appalled by this article”: “It was the last straw, if you like, that 
broke this particular camel’s back.” 

Carman: “I suggest it was not the last straw, but the thing which 
turned your tongue to venom and your mind to malice was that Mr 
Thorpe had provided the Sunday Times with information about 
you.” 

Mr Bessell denied this. 

At the very end of his cross-examination, after a little knockabout 
turn (in which the judge gleefully joined) about the mercenary 
attitude of journalists, who were thought only to be interested in the 
profit and circulation of their newspapers, Mr Carman turned to the 
question of suicide. Mr Bessell, who now looked thoroughly 
exhausted after his ten hours in the witness-box, agreed that he had 
contemplated suicide in 1971 and 1973. After a few routine insinu¬ 
ations - that by his method of suicide he was planning to defraud his 
insurance - Mr Carman asked his last question. 

Carman: “May I suggest to you that you have reached the stage of 
being incapable of belief by anyone else?” 

Mr Bessell paused a long time before answering. For a terrible 
moment, it seemed as if he was going to agree, thereby destroying 
the whole ten hours of agony with one syllable. He was exhausted, 


94 


THE LAST WORD 


confused and full of the self-loathing which sometimes seems to be the 
Methodist equivalent of Catholic penance. For the space of fifteen 
seconds, as I say, it was touch and go. Then a very strange thing 
happened. Whether Mr Justice Cantley took pity on him, or 
whether he did not want to see Mr Carman get away with it so easily 
we shall probably never know, but it was the judge who saved him - 
the same judge whose previous interruptions might have been 
calculated to answer this very question. 

“You can’t expect him to agree to that, ” said Mr Justice Cantley. 
“You’re wasting our time. That is a question for you to put to the 
jury, not to him.’’ 

This interruption brought Mr Bessell to his senses. “If I believed I 
were no longer capable of being believed,’’ he said, “I would not be 
here at the Old Bailey. I would be at Oceanside, California.” 

That ended Mr Bessell’s cross-examination. Mr Taylor rose to his 
feet and pointed out that his witness was plainly too tired to face 
re-examination that day. The court adjourned. 


Day nine: 18 May 1979 

Before Mr Bessell could be re-examined on the fourth day of his 
stand in the witness-box, Mr Carman staged one of his dramatic 
pre-trial interruptions. It appeared that Mr Bessell had been con¬ 
ferring with his solicitor, in defiance of the judge’s order that he was 
to confer with nobody. 

Mr Bessell said that he did not know the ban extended to confer¬ 
ences with his solicitor, and apologised. Once again, Mr Carman 
took the opportunity of accusing him of lying on oath. 

It appeared that he had remembered something about the dates 
of the Hetherington incident and dictated some notes for his sol¬ 
icitor, Mr Lionel Phillips, to give to Mr Taylor, the prosecution 
counsel. Mr Taylor, appalled by the impropriety of this, had handed 
the notes to the defence, who raised the matter now in the presence 
of the jury. Other counsel in court were mildly surprised by the 
furore which developed from this. Nobody disputed the impropri¬ 
ety of a witness trying to contact his solicitor; but gravity would 
depend on the circumstances. In this case, the circumstances did not 
seem to be grave. The judge, however, perhaps regretting his 
leniency of the day before, was disposed to take the matter very 
seriously indeed, especially after reassuring himself and the court 
that Mr Bessell’s solicitor was the husband of his literary agent. 
Once again the spectre of other people making money had arisen. 



THE AGONY OF MR PETER BESSELL 


95 


Whatever the reason, Mr Justice Cantley decided to humiliate the 
witness publicly, and in the presence of the jury, before he had 
finished giving evidence. Addressing him savagely, and in terms 
which were more appropriate to a convicted criminal than a witness 
who had voluntarily and in all innocence handed the court the 
evidence of his faux pas , the judge reminded Mr Bessell of his order 
that he was to talk to no one. Mr Bessell apologised, and accepted 
that he had disobeyed it. The judge commented, “You may have to 
accept more than that.” 

At the end of the day’s evidence, again in open court, the judge 
was to send for Mr Phillips, who was represented, and emphasised 
once again how he thought it a “bad feature” that his wife should be 
Mr Bessell’s literary agent. 

Mr Justice Cantley: “Your disobedience is all the more remark¬ 
able because you are a solicitor who should have known better. 
There are several courses open to me, including immediate im¬ 
prisonment or a fine. Indeed, I had thought of something quite 
drastic by way of an example to other solicitors. But I shall accept 
that, however astonishingly, you did this innocently because we 
would not have caught you otherwise. You handed this to the 
prosecution and thereby informed the court of what you had done. 

“Although your conduct has been extremely stupid, it has not 
been ill-founded. For this reason I will rebuke you for your action 
but take no further action.” 

The court was to adjourn at the end of the day on that note - a 
further nail in the coffin of Mr Bessell’s credibility. Once again, it 
had been delivered by the judge; this time, in the opinion of many 
people present, quite gratuitously. 

Meanwhile, even the normally urbane Mr Taylor seemed ruffled 
by this display of judicial spleen when he rose for his brief re¬ 
examination of the witness. Before starting his re-examination, he 
addressed two questions to Mr Bessell about the matter which had 
gone before. 

Taylor: “To whom do you look for legal advice?” 

Bessell: “To my solicitor, sir.” 

Taylor: “When you spoke to him this morning . . . did he seem to 
deter you in any way?” 

Bessell: “No, sir.” 

That closed the matter . Nobody suggested that it was an elementary 
injustice that a witness who had submitted to having his character torn 
to shreds and who was not legally represented in court , should be 
debarred from consulting his solicitor to put.the record straight on a 


96 


THE LAST WORD 


few minor points . So far as Mr Bessell was represented in court , as a 
Crown witness , it was by the Crown counsel , yef he was forbidden to 
communicate with Mr Taylor . It was an episode which left a nasty 
taste in the mouth of many who witnessed it, not least for the savagery 
with which the judge rebuked him in front of the jury. 

Re-examination necessarily covered only a very few points raised 
in cross-examination. Mr Taylor produced a letter from Mr Bessell 
to Thorpe which had accompanied his “Mandrax” letter. It was 
highly facetious in tone, starting “My Lord” - Mr Bessell explained 
it was normal for him to address the former Liberal leader as Lord 
Thorpe of Barnstaple, and Thorpe called him Baron Besili [sic] of 
Bodmin. It left no doubt that the earlier letter had been written for 
the purpose of convincing Mr Hayward that Thorpe was not 
involved in the fraud. 

If Norman Scott had been following Mr Bessell’s evidence and 
the court’s treatment of its chief prosecution witness, this might 
explain why, when he took his stand in the witness-box, he had the 
air of a little rabbit who was very frightened indeed. 



5 


Tale of a Flopsy Bunny 


Mr Norman Scott 

At Minehead, his tidy appearance and soft, almost prissy manner 
had come as a surprise. This was the man whose accusations against 
the former Liberal leader, relentlessly but also courageously 
pressed in the face of an extraordinarily powerful campaign of 
discouragement, had led to what looked like a murder attempt 
against him, the subsequent arrest and trial of a powerful public 
figure. By one account, he was a poisonous and successful black¬ 
mailer, by another a hysterical, probably paranoid fantasist; by 
either account he was wilfully destroying the reputation, and poss¬ 
ibly life, of an honourable and popular figure, one of the few 
trustworthy men in public life, and one who had already endured 
more than his share of suffering in the tragic death of his first wife - 
possibly as a result of Scott’s harassment. Nobody, in any saloon bar 
throughout the land, had a good word to say for Norman Scott. Mr 
Taylor, in his gentlemanly way, seemed as much concerned to 
correct the general opprobrium attaching to his witness as he was to 
establish the truth of Scott’s narrative. The purpose of his evidence 
was to establish a motive for the alleged crime, and this motive was 
as valid if Scott was an unprincipled blackmailer or liar as it was if 
Scott was sincere, misunderstood and deeply wronged. By gener¬ 
ously supporting the more favourable interpretation of Scott’s 
motives, Mr Taylor may have encouraged the misapprehension of 
which Scott himself frequently complained - that he was on trial as 
much as Thorpe, and the jury were being invited to choose between 
the two. 

At Minehead, his story at least had the dramatic impact of its 
novelty. By the time he appeared at the Old Bailey, everybody 
knew what he was going to say. Those who expressed an anxiety 
about the effect of reporting the Minehead proceedings on public 
attitudes to Thorpe seldom paused to consider its effect on public 
attitudes to Scott. 




98 


THE LAST WORD 


Unlike Mr Bessell, he had not learned his story by heart, although 
he had probably told it even more often. He was vague about dates, 
frequently forgetful, and easily flustered. Where, at Minehead, he 
had possessed a fine indignation which managed to carry him 
through these lapses, in the Old Bailey even his petulant outbursts 
seemed rehearsed. His manner, at the outset, was nervous and 
distracted. This is the story which Norman Scott told. 

Scott first met the defendant Thorpe in 1960 when he was work¬ 
ing as a stable lad for a man who called himself the Honourable 
Brecht Van de Vater. His real name was Norman Vater. He was a 
friend of Thorpe, already an MP. After staying the night with Vater, 
Thorpe met the young Scott and asked him if he was happy. When 
Scott said he was, Thorpe replied that if ever he had cause to be 
worried - Vater was rather a strange person in many ways - he 
should get in touch with the MP. 

Soon after, Scott suffered a nervous breakdown and left Vater’s 
employment for a psychiatric clinic where he was heavily sedated. 
On leaving the clinic he went to see Thorpe in the House of 
Commons. Thorpe said he would take care of him and told him to 
collect his Jack Russell terrier, Mrs Tish. First, Thorpe took him to 
the house of a friend {at Minehead he said the friend was called Tony , 
but this information was denied the Old Bailey at this stage) in 
Dulwich. Two men were there, and Thorpe asked them to look after 
Scott if ever he was in trouble. Then Thorpe took him to the house 
of his mother, Mrs Ursula Thorpe, in Surrey, saying he would be 
introduced as Peter, from Colchester, member of a camera crew 
accompanying Thorpe to Malta next day. He signed the visitors’ 
book with this name, adding “Johnstone,” “Harrison,” “Thomson” 
or something like that. 

That night he went to his room and Thorpe gave him a glass of 
water for some pills he had to take. Thorpe also gave him a book, 
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, the story of a homosexual 
relationship. After he had been reading the book for about forty- 
five minutes. Thorpe came into his room in dressing-gown and 
pyjamas and sat on his bed. 

They discussed Scott’s problems with his employer. Vater was an 
undischarged bankrupt, and Scott maintained that he had run up 
bills in Scott’s name. Thorpe remarked that he looked like a fright¬ 
ened rabbit and Scott, overwhelmed by Thorpe’s kindness, broke 
down and cried. Thorpe put his arm around Scott and said, “Poor 
bunny.” Later Thorpe got into bed with him, produced a towel 
which he put underneath Scott and some substance from a tube in 




TALE OF A FLOPSY BUNNY 


99 


his pocket which he put on his penis, turned Scott over and bug¬ 
gered him or, as Scott put it, “made love to me.” Scott, while this 
was happening, bit the pillow and tried not to scream for fear of 
upsetting Mrs Thorpe. 

Scott had had relationships with both men and women before, but 
had never previously been buggered. After this act, Thorpe wiped 
himself and went out, patting Scott’s thigh. Scott lay in bed crying 
with his dog Mrs Tish for company. He did not see Thorpe again 
that night - at Minehead, he said that Thorpe came back two hours 
later and buggered him again - but next morning, at about seven- 
thirty, Thorpe came in and asked him how he liked his eggs boiled. 
Then he had breakfast with Thorpe and his mother, Mrs Ursula 
Thorpe. 

Later, they were driven to London by Thorpe’s secretary, 
Jennifer King, who lived in a village called Limpsfield. Thorpe gave 
him some money to find a flat near the House of Commons where 
Thorpe would come and visit him. Scott told him that Vater held his 
national insurance cards which had not been paid. 

Scott found a room at 21 Draycott Place, Chelsea. On his return 
from Malta a fortnight later, Thorpe visited him there and sexual 
intercourse occurred. Thorpe visited him most evenings when he 
was in London, and sometimes they went out together - to the 
House of Commons, the Reform Club, or a Chelsea restaurant. 

Over Christmas 1961, Thorpe sent him to stay with some friends, 
the Colliers, in North Devon. Thorpe and his mother were staying 
nearby at the Broomhills Hotel. After lunch there, Thorpe sug¬ 
gested his mother and the Colliers should go for a walk in the 
garden; he took Scott to his bathroom and further sexual activity 
occurred. 

Scott was not happy about the sexual side of their relationship, 
which saddened and sickerted him. On one occasion, after he had 
been staying with the Colliers for six weeks, with Thorpe visiting 
him at the weekends, he was driving with Thorpe in a motorcar 
when Thorpe tried to kiss him and he threatened to expose Thorpe 
in public. Thorpe laughed at his distress and said Scott could not 
hurt him because he, Thorpe, was a friend of the Director of Public 
Prosecutions, who, he said, was Sir Norman Skelhorn. 

At this time, on Thorpe’s suggestion, he put an advertisement in 
Country Life describing himself as an ex-public schoolboy of 
twenty-one willing to work on a farm with horses. He received many 
replies from homosexuals. While staying with the Colliers he 
received a letter from Thorpe which he produced: 


100 


THE LAST WORD 


My dear Norman, 

Since letters normally go to the House, yours arrived all by 
itself at my breakfast table at the Reform and gave me tremen¬ 
dous pleasure. I cannot tell you just how happy I am to feel you 
are really settling down and feeling life has something to offer. 
This is really wonderful and you can always feel that whatever 
happens Jimmy and Mary [Collier] and I are right behind you. 

The next thing is to solve your financial problem and this James 
Walters [a solicitor] and I are on to. 

The really important thing is that you are now a member of a 
family doing a useful job of work - with Tish - which you enjoy. 
Hooray. Faced with all that, no more bloody clinics. 

I think you can take the Ann Gray incident as over and done 
with. Enclosed another ltr. I suggest you keep them all - just in 
case - but will you send back the photo? Thank the guy but say 
you are fixed up. In haste. 

Bunnies can (and will) go to France. 

Yours affectionately, 
Jeremy 
I miss you. 

Ann Gray was a girl-friend of Scott who lived in Draycott Place and 
who claimed he had stolen her sheepskin coat. The police came to 
interview him about this in Thorpe’s new office in Bridge Street, 
Westminster. When the police arrived. Scott’s fly-buttons were 
undone and Thorpe was fondling him. They stopped. Thorpe put his 
hand to his mouth and motioned him to sit down. He later made a 
statement to the police about the sheepskin coat which did not 
mention his relationship with Thorpe. 

Scott was describing once again the reference to bunnies when 
the court adjourned for the weekend. 


Day ten: 21 May 1979 

Scott's narrative continued 

By the end of 1962, Scott was unhappy about the relationship and 
wished to kill himself and Thorpe. During the year he had been to 
stay in Minehead with a Dr Lister who was treating him for his 
nerves. While he was there, his dog Mrs Tish killed all Dr Lister’s 
ducks and had to be put down. He thought they would send him 
away if she killed more poultry, and was very unhappy. After 
leaving the Listers, Scott returned to his mother, but she did not 




TALE OF A FLOPSV BUNNY 


101 


have much money. Then he started going to stay with Jeremy 
Thorpe at Marsham Court, Victoria. The flat had a single bed in it; 
after sexual activity, Thorpe would tell him to get the camp bed out, 
and Scott slept on that. 

On 19 December 1962 he mentioned to a friend of his who was 
also a friend of Thorpe, Caroline Barrington-Ward, that he wished 
to kill himself and Thorpe. Two hours later he went to the Easton 
Hotel, in Victoria. By chance the receptionist there was Mary 
Collier at whose house he had spent the previous Christmas in 
North Devon. After she had spoken to him, she summoned two 
policemen who took him to a police station where he made a long 
statement about his relationship with Thorpe. He also handed the 
police two letters and a postcard; the letters were returned to him 
fourteen years later, in 1976, after he had taken out a writ against 
the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Mark. 

In 1963 Scott went to live in Northern Ireland, occasionally 
returning to England to see Thorpe, who had said he was going to 
stamp Scott’s national insurance card. His relations with Thorpe 
continued as before. 

At this point the judge interrupted to ask a question about the 
cards, saying he did not want to hear about the relations. It pro¬ 
voked an outburst from Scott: “Believe me, sir, I don’t want to talk 
about the relationship ever again . . . Every time I came over it was 
solely for one reason. It was not to pick up the insurance cards. It 
was so he could screw me, sir.” 

On returning from Ireland, Scott held a few jobs but lost them 
again because of telling lies; he went back to Thorpe at Marsham 
Court. Shortly afterwards he went to take up a job with horses in 
Switzerland, his fare being paid by Thorpe. He packed all Thorpe’s 
letters in his suitcase, but the suitcase was mislaid. He left after a 
night, went back to Thorpe, and then to Southern Ireland. He did 
not get his suitcase back until 1965. 

In Ireland he met a priest called Father Sweetman who was kind 
to him, but Scott treated him badly. Eventually, he decided to write 
to Thorpe’s mother, Mrs Ursula Thorpe, asking her to intercede for 
him in the matter of the luggage -Thorpe had been very angry when 
Scott mentioned some letters contained in the suitcase. He later 
regretted writing to Mrs Thorpe, but he thought she already knew 
about their relationship. 

After he sent the letter, he met Mr Bessell in Dublin who told him 
he had an extradition order from Sir Frank Soskice, the Home 
Secretary, to take him back to England on a charge of blackmail. He 


102 


THE LAST WORD 


welcomed this, as he had never blackmailed anybody, and was 
scarcely in a position to do so having already made a statement to 
the police. Mr Bessell promised to sort out the luggage and gave him 
£5 to buy food. Some time later his luggage arrived without the 
letters. 

At about this time he changed his name from Josiffe to Scott, 
because the name Josiffe caused trouble in the modelling world 
where people thought he was called Joe Sieff. He realised he had 
been duped by Thorpe and Bessell in the matter of the letters and 
feared that without the evidence of his relationship in the letters he 
might be committed to a mental hospital. 

After receiving a letter from Scott, Mr Bessell started making 
payments to him of about £5 a week, which Scott regarded as being 
in lieu of unemployment benefit. These payments stopped when 
Scott went to live with a man called Conway, but when he and 
Conway split up he needed his insurance cards again, and received 
£75 from Mr Bessell to set up as a model. In August or September 
1968 he had about 500 copies printed of a folio of photographs 
which were his brochure as a male model. 

On 13 May 1969 Scott married Susan Myers. Soon after, his wife 
was pregnant and they were starving. He threatened to write to 
Thorpe’s wife Caroline, but did not speak to her on the telephone. 
His son was born in November 1969. Shortly afterwards his 
marriage broke up. 

Mr Bessell wrote to him suggesting the name of a solicitor to 
handle his divorce, Mr Leonard Ross. Later, Scott realised that this 
was only to protect Thorpe. Mr Bessell said he should keep out of 
London during the divorce, and said he would pay the rent for him 
to live in Tal-y-bont, North Wales. 

While there, Scott befriended Mrs Gwen Parry-Jones, a widow, 
and Mr Keith Rose, a local garage proprietor. Mr Rose wrote to 
Thorpe about the state Scott was in, and received a snubbing reply 
from Thorpe’s personal assistant: “Mr Thorpe asks me to say he has 
no obligation to this gentleman.” 

Scott and Mrs Parry-Jones became lovers. She wrote to Mr 
Emlyn Hooson, Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire. Together she 
and Scott went to London to face a Liberal Party enquiry into 
Scott’s allegations. Scott spoke to David Steel, the Liberal Chief 
Whip, Mr Hooson and Lord Byers, Chairman of the Liberal Party. 
On 10 June and 14 June 1971, Scott made further statements to the 
police, and tried to get back letters he had given the police in 1962. 

In March 1972 Mrs Parry-Jones died. Scott was of the opinion 




TALE OF A FLOPSY BUNNY 


103 


she killed herself. At the inquest, Scott described his relationship 
with Thorpe. An open verdict was recorded. 

After a time he went to live at the Old Rectory, South Molton, in 
Thorpe’s constituency. Earlier, Scott had met a South African 
journalist called Gordon Winter to whom he told his story. Winter 
tape-recorded an interview with him and took copies of documents; 
Scott complained to him of the Liberal Party cover-up, claiming 
that three respected Liberal MPs had brushed his complaints under 
the carpet. 

He was suffering from anxiety neurosis. A Dr Gleadle in South 
Molton prescribed drugs. He was drinking a lot in pubs and talking 
about his relationship with Jeremy Thorpe. Dr Gleadle paid him 
£2,500 for his file of documents and said he was to talk to nobody. 
Luckily, Gordon Winter had taken copies of the documents. 

In February 1975 Scott was telephoned by a man who said he was 
called Steiner, working for either Der Spiegel or Stern , the German 
magazine. They arranged to meet at the Imperial Hotel, Barnstaple, 
Scott bringing copies of documents supplied by Winter. When Scott 
went there, his documents were stolen, probably by two men who 
came into the hotel. 

On another occasion, he was telephoned by a man who said he 
was called Ian Wright, working for an Italian fashion house called 
Pensiero fashions. The man offered him £400 a week to model 
some clothes and suggested he go to the Royal Garden Hotel, 
Kensington. Scott refused. 

Later Scott went to live at the Market Inn, Barnstaple, managed 
by Mrs Edna Friendship, from mid-September to mid-October 
1975. He was telephoned by a man called Masterson who spoke 
with a public school accent. He was writing an article about the 
affair and asked Scott to go to the Holiday Inn at Bristol, where a 
room would be booked for him. Scott agreed but did not turn up. 
Masterson telephoned angrily, and Scott suggested he should come 
to Barnstaple, but he heard no more from Masterson. 

In October 1975 he was approached by a stranger in the Pannier 
Market, Barnstaple, who told him he was in great danger. There was 
someone coming from Canada who had been paid to kill him. The 
man saida woman wanted to see him at a place called Knowstone 
nearby. Scott asked if the woman was Marion Thorpe, and the man 
agreed it was. Scott said she would have to come to his hotel. The 
man said he was being paid to protect Scott, and wanted to know 
why. Scott was frightened and asked Mrs Friendship to take down 
the number of the man’s car, which she did. The man, who said he 


104 


THE LAST WORD 


was called Peter Keene, took notes on pink slips of paper as Scott 
told him his story. 

Keene, whom Scott later identified as Andrew Newton, told him 
that his son might be harmed before he was, and this suggestion 
made Scott so unhappy that he cried. 

Later Keene left but on 23 October - the day before the alleged 
murder attempt - Scott received a called from a telephone box. The 
caller appeared to be in a hurry. “Hello, this is Andy,” he began. 
Scott said he did not know anyone called Andy and the caller said, 
“It’s Peter.” Keene then said that the man from Canada was in the 
country and was coming to kill him. He had to see Mr Scott. 

They met by arrangement at 6 pm on 24 October 1975 outside 
the Delve’s Hotel in Combe Martin. Scott took his Great Dane 
bitch, called Rinka, with him. Keene (Newton) said, “I will not have 
that bloody dog.” Scott insisted on taking the dog with them in the 
car to Porlock, where Newton said he had to recruit a young woman 
for his business of private investigator. 

The day’s hearing ended there, with a warning from the judge 
that Scott should not talk about his evidence to anyone. 


Day eleven: 22 May 1979 

When they reached Porlock, Newton told Scott to wait for him 
in the Castle Hotel while he interviewed the young woman. At 
8.20 pm Scott saw Newton’s car outside and asked him why he had 
not come into the pub. Newton replied, “Oh no, I can’t be seen with 
you.” 

Scott and his dog Rinka climbed into the car and they set off 
towards Combe Martin. As they climbed out of Porlock towards the 
moors, the car began swinging from side to side. Scott suggested 
that Newton must be tired and offered to drive. 

Newton replied, “Yes, I'm knackered.” 

They stopped in a lay-by. Both men and the dog got out. 

Newton said, “Oh no, this is it,” and shot the dog. 

It took some time for Scott to realise what he had done - it was a 
wild and windy, wet night. When Scott realised that Rinka had been 
killed, he said, “You can’t involve Rinka. You can’t involve Rinka,” 
Scott shook the dog, shouting at her, “Are you all right?” 

Scott saw r Newton standing in front of the headlights, shaking the 
pistol, and screamed at him, “Why did you do it?” 

Newton pointed the pistol at him, and Scott ran away. Then he 
decided he might as well die with his dog and returned. Newton 



TALE OF A FLOPSY BUNNY 


105 


levelled the gun at him again and started swearing! Then he jumped 
into the car, slammed the door, and shouting, “I will get you,” 
turned the car round and drove back towards Porlock. 

Scott, meanwhile, tried to resuscitate the dog for about ten 
minutes, all alone on the moors, giving it the kiss of life. Then he saw 
headlights and was picked up by a passing car. 

In March of the next year he gave evidence at the trial of Newton. 
Newton was charged with being in possession of a gun with intent 
to endanger life. He was convicted and sentenced to two years’ 
imprisonment. 


6 

Rabbit Redux 


Norman Scott cross-examined 

Throughout his examination-in-chief, Scott spoke very quietly. 
Sometimes his voice sank to a whisper, and he had to be asked to 
speak up. Although he had plainly told the story many times before, 
he still wept at the appropriate moments - when Rinka was shot, 
when Mrs Parry-Jones died - with every sign of spontaneity. Having 
seen the performance once before, I judged his first appearance, at 
Minehead, the better of the two and this was the opinion of most 
journalists who attended both. But on that occasion, as I say, his 
evidence had the advantage of novelty, and a very startling tale it 
was to hear for the first time. 

Under cross-examination, he became noisier and more emo¬ 
tional. Unlike Mr Bessell, he had been allowed to give his 
evidence-in-chief without a barrage of questions or sceptical inter¬ 
ruptions from the judge, but the atmosphere of the court was very 
different from Minehead, where the magistrates interrupted not at 
all. Where, at Minehead, his rages had been impressive, here they 
seemed either petulant or rehearsed and seldom very effective. 

Short cross-examinations by Mr Mathew, for Holmes, by Mr 
Williams, for Deakin, and by Mr Cowley, for Le Mesurier, pro¬ 
duced nothing which at the time seemed of much importance, nor 
does it in retrospect. Scott’s role was to establish a motive for the 
conspiracy and to establish the likelihood of Thorpe’s involvement 
in it. His evidence had no bearing on Le Mesurier and little enough 
on Deakin and Holmes unless they were the people who stole his 
papers from the Imperial Hotel, Barnstaple. But Mr Taylor had 
made no attempts to establish this, and even if it was true, it only 
indicated their involvement in a conspiracy of some sort - which 
neither had denied - and not in a conspiracy to murder. 

Scott agreed with Mr Mathew on this occasion that Newton, 
on approaching him for the first time in the Pannier Market, 
Barnstaple, had said he wanted to talk about “this blackmail” - 



RABBIT REDUX 


107 


something Scott had doubted, or even seemed to deny, on previous 
occasions. He agreed that Newton had said that if he handed his 
documents to Thorpe’s solicitor in Barnstaple, Michael Barnes, he 
would receive a large sum of money. 

Mr Williams, for Deakin, made a great business of writing names 
on paper for the judge’s eyes only, and discussing how it would be 
improper to discuss whom Scott might have met in Dulwich. It was 
at this point that Scott said he never learned “Tony’s” full name. We 
never learned the relevance of this passage to Mr Williams’s 
defence of Deakin. 

In answer to another question, Scott said he was not sure whether 
it was he or his wife Susan who had spoken to Caroline Thorpe on 
the telephone, but whichever it was had referred to Scott’s allega¬ 
tions about Thorpe. 

He agreed that he had named prominent people as being involved 
in his affairs. Mr Williams seemed to be daring him to name a 
particular name, but Scott declined to do so and the judge inter¬ 
vened anxiously: “A lot of scandal may be very interesting, but it is 
not relevant.” 

After further cryptic conversation between them - Scott agreed 
he had told Newton that people of influence were engaged in a 
cover-up - Mr Williams sat down and Mr Denis Cowley QC, for Le 
Mesurier, broke his long silence to ask a single, equally mysterious 
question of the witness. 

Cowley: “Did you speak to Caroline Thorpe but the once?” 

Scott: “Yes.” 

Then - the moment we had all been waiting for, Mr Carman stood 
up. At Minehead, Scott was cross-examined by Thorpe’s solicitor, 
Sir David Napley, a former president of the Law Society, whose 
knighthood hung over the court like a plumed helmet over the 
Castle of Otranto. Napley’s cross-examination may have been pon¬ 
derous, and without much subtlety - on at least one occasion it 
degenerated into farce - but it was extremely thorough, and pro¬ 
vided most of the answers which Carman required for his cross- 
examination. A problem for Carman was that Scott was extremely 
vague about dates and minor details of that sort. If ever Mr Carman 
tried to attach significance to these inconsistencies, he was made to 
look a fool. But where Napley had been hectoring in manner, Mr 
Carman tried a gentler approach, as if he were dealing with an 
invalid who, however tiresome, required sympathetic treatment. 

His first question set the tone beautifully. Was Scott undergoing 
any medical treatment at the present time, he asked tenderly? 


108 


THE LAST WORD 


No. Scott agreed he had undergone medical treatment - and like 
many persistent invalids seemed disposed to talk about it - but not 
for two and a half years. He had a history of nervous problems and 
was once compulsorily detained in hospital. 

Scott seemed a little nervous when Mr Carman took him back to 
the time when, after leaving Norman Vater’s employment, he had 
been a patient of Dr Willems at the Ashurst Clinic. After discharg¬ 
ing himself, Scott went to live with a couple in Oxfordshire, and was 
readmitted in October 1961. This was a month before he presented 
himself to Thorpe at the House of Commons and was taken to spend 
the night in Mrs Ursula Thorpe’s house in Surrey. At this stage, he 
had met Thorpe only briefly at Vater’s house. This passage proved 
one of the most extraordinary moments of the trial: 

Scott: “I was very drugged at the time, and some details of the 
incident might have gone out of my mind.” 

Carman: “You don’t remember telling them that you knew 
Jeremy Thorpe?” 

Scott: “I still had a bundle of love letters of Jeremy Thorpe that 
he had written to Van de Vater.” 

Carman: “Never mind what you say are love letters between Mr 
Thorpe and Van de Vater, answer the question.” 

The judge: “You are not giving a proper answer. That was just a 
bit of dirt thrown in. Listen to the question and answer, and behave 
yourself” 

In their anxiety to prevent any irrelevant accusations being made 
against Thorpe , both the judge and Mr Carman seem to have missed 
the significance of these letters - that through the accident of Vater*s 
having the same Christian name as himself Scott had been using 
them to support claims of a homosexual relationship with Thorpe 
even before any such relationship had occurred , by Scott*s later 
account. In other words , by Scott*s own admission , he had been lying 
about a relationship with Thorpe even before the alleged relationship 
started . This could have been a most damaging admission , lending 
powerful support to Thorpe*s claim that no homosexual acts had 
taken place between them. But because the admission slipped out 
under these circumstances , Mr Carman made little of it at the time. 

Carman: “You met Mr Thorpe and talked to him for five minutes 
or less. He hadn’t written you a single letter before you went to the 
House of Commons, neither had you written a single letter to Mr 
Thorpe before that. Why did you say Mr Thorpe was a friend of 
yours when all you had done was to speak to him for less than five 
minutes?” 



RABBIT REDUX 


109 


Scott: “Because when I had had the therapy at the hospital I was 
going through a delusion and I had these letters. I was using these 
letters to say that I had had a relationship with him already . . .” 

Carman: “You were saying you had a sexual relationship w'ith Mr 
Thorpe before you went to the House of Commons?” 

Scott: “Yes” 

Carman: “Quite obviously, that was not true?” 

Scott: “No, it wasn’t.” 

Carman: “In fairness to you, were you saying it because you were 
suffering from a delusion?” 

Scott: “Yes.” 

Mr Carman went on to discuss various other delusions from 
which Scott had suffered - that his parents had been killed in a plane 
crash, that he was the son of an earl. 

Carman: “Was that another delusion?” 

Scott: “No, it was a lie ” 

Scott explained he told this lie because he was trying to get a job, 
and he thought it would be difficult to get a job with horses unless he 
was a certain type of person. He changed his name to Scott while he 
was in Dublin in 1966-67, because Scott was the family name of the 
Earl of Eldon. 

Scott: “I pretended I was the son of the Earl of Eldon.” 

Carman: “Do you think that was a wicked thing?” 

Scott: “Yes I do. But I have done so many wicked things in the 
past.” 

This was a foolish sort of general admission to make in court if 
one is a witness, and Scott may have realised it when he added: 

“I have not lied since that wretched man tried to kill me because I 
suddenly realised there was no point in all this lying.” 

That , indeed , was the essence of both Crown witnesses' stand -that 
whereas Mr Bessell and Scott had both lied frequently in the past , they 
had now decided to tell the truth . The trouble with this as a witness - 
box posture was that unless they were prepared to repeat it with every 
question , as Mr Carman took them through their previous lies , it 
appeared to the careless or inattentive listener as if Mr Carman had 
caught them out again , thereby seeming to discredit their 
protestations . 

Scott agreed that he used to pretend he knew great or famous 
people and that he was well connected. Mr Carman did not name 
these people, nor did he ask Scott whether he had ever claimed 
sexual connection with them. This may have been in deference to the 
judge's known sensitivity on this point , or possibly the result of 


110 


THE LAST WORD 


agreement between defence and prosecuting counsel - part of the 
quid pro quo whereby no evidence of Thorpe's previous homosexual 
activity was produced . If so, lean only suggest that Mr Carman drove 
the harder bargain . But of course any such theory must rest on 
speculation . 

Next, Mr Carman referred Scott to his statement made at Chelsea 
police station on the night of 19 December 1962. At that time, it will 
be remembered, Scott had told a young woman called Caroline 
Barrington-Ward that he proposed to kill Thorpe. She told the 
police who took a long detailed statement from him accusing 
Thorpe of homosexual relations, which were still a criminal offence. 
Police investigations were not pursued, and indeed nobody learned 
about this first police statement until 1976, after the first police 
investigation into the dog-shooting was finished. 

Mr Carman read from the statement which began: 

“I have come to the police to tell you of my homosexual relations 
with Jeremy Thorpe, who is a Liberal MP, because these relations 
have caused me so much purgatory.” 

In this account, Mr Carman pointed out, Scott seemed to deny 
that actual penetration had occurred on the first occasion, in Mrs 
Ursula Thorpe’s home. One passage read: “I am almost certain his 
penis did not go into my anus. I am not sure whether he ejaculated, 
but he seemed satisfied.” 

This was very different, of course, from Scott’s later account of 
biting the pillow to prevent himself crying out with pain, or (at 
Minehead) of feeling that Thorpe might be sawing him in half with 
his penis. Scott explained the discrepancy by saying that he was 
nervous of police prosecution for buggery in December 1962. 

Scott: “At the beginning of my statement I was trying to make 
myself out a cleaner person than I was.” 

But later in the 1962 statement, as his confidence grew, he 
admitted to buggery having occurred on many occasions, in 
Draycott Place and elsewhere, and even claimed, on one occasion, 
to have buggered Thorpe. 

“But I did not ejaculate. I felt sick.” 

This statement described the Bridge Street episode, when detec¬ 
tives called at a time when “Jeremy was trying to kiss me” but 
placed the incident in the Liberal whip’s room in the House of 
Commons, rather than in Thorpe’s Bridge Street office. 

It also included the famous remark by Thorpe: “He said that 
he couldn’t be hurt, and that I could not harm him or his character 
if I told the police or anyone, because, he said, MPs have some 




RABBIT REDUX 


111 


sort of privilege, and he was a friend of the Director of Public 
Prosecutions.” 

This was a curious statement for Thorpe to have made in 1961 or 
1962 because the Director of Public Prosecutions then was old Sir 
Theobald Mathew, father of John Mathew QC, who by coincidence 
was representing Thorpe's co-defendant, David Holmes. Nobody 
doubts that Thorpe was a friend of the man who replaced him on Sir 
Theobald's death in February 1964 -Norman Skelhorn, a fellow 
barrister on the Western circuit. Skelhorn's tenure of the post was a 
short one when compared to Sir Theobald's twenty years - he re¬ 
signed in 1977, the year that the second police investigation into the 
Thorpe affair was eventually launched. Perhaps Thorpe was also a 
friend of Mr Mathew's father, despite the difference in their ages. 
Stranger things have happened. There was a friend and Oxford 
contemporary of Thorpe's in the DPP's office at the time - 
Christopher Bonan - but his name was never mentioned. Since 
Thorpe declined to give evidence, we may never know the true 
explanation . Nobody has suggested any connection between Thorpe 
and the DPP responsible for the form of the prosecution against him, 
Sir Thomas “Tony" Hetherington, although there were many jokes, 
inevitably, about the “man called Hetherington" of Mr Bessell's 
evidence . It was widely felt, at the end of the day, that alternative or 
lesser charges would have resulted in conviction where at any rate 
some of the defendants were concerned. 

Towards the end of the morning’s cross-examination, Scott 
reaffirmed that he had been driven to London Airport after the 
pillow-biting incident by Thorpe’s secretary, Miss Jennifer King. 
Mr Carman said Miss King - now a married woman - would be 
produced, and strongly hinted that she would deny the incident. For 
the purposes of identification, he would show Scott the lady 
concerned. 

The door opened and a plump, dark, middle-aged woman walked 
around the well of the court, rather like Banquo’s ghost. It was a 
fine, melodramatic moment, like the one at Minehead when Scott 
said that he could prove he had had a homosexual relationship with 
Thorpe if Thorpe was prepared to submit to a medical examination. 
When asked what secret matters would be revealed, Scott wrote, 
“He has nodules under his arm,” on a piece of paper which he 
handed to Sir David Napley. 

On this occasion there was a similar anti-climax. Scott stared 
blankly at the woman and said he wasn’t sure whether she was Miss 
Jennifer King or not. 


112 


THE LAST WORD 


It seemed odd at the time that Mr Carman should go to such lengths 
to establish what could only have been a minor and unimportant 
inaccuracy in Scott's narrative . If anyone remembered at the end of 
the day it would have seemed even odder, because Miss King was 
never called as a witness and so never revealed whether she had or 
had not made the car journey . Perhaps Mr Carman felt he had 
already made the point . Or perhaps, as I believe, he still intended to 
call defence witnesses at this stage . 

If by the end of the morning’s evidence Scott had been subdued, 
the afternoon found him in a louder, more emphatic mood, some¬ 
times even aggressive. His outbursts were less effective in the large 
courtroom than they had been in the Magistrates’ Court at 
Minehead, but the afternoon was to bring what, in the context of the 
defence, was an important admission by Mr Carman - that Thorpe, 
indeed had been a man of homosexual tendencies at the time in 
question. Up to this moment, it had been assumed that he would 
deny it. It was the first wavering from his front of unassailable 
rectitude. 

The first outburst came within minutes after the luncheon recess, 
and it occurred to me that Scott had perhaps eaten something 
disagreeable during the lunch hour. Mr Carman was asking about 
the Bridge Street episode, when Scott suddenly started shouting. 

Carman: “Mr Thorpe had arranged for the police to come by 
appointment?” 

Scott: “Yes,” then (shouting), “Jeremy Thorpe lives on a knife- 
edge of danger.” 

Carmen (quietly): “What about you?” 

Scott (even louder): “I don’t at all. I have certainly lived in danger 
of my life for many years because of your client.” 

A little later, Mr Carman asked Scott if he felt vindictive towards 
Thorpe. 

Scott: “I feel nothing, neither vindictiveness nor anything at all, 
just great pity. The man has destroyed me totally. Thorpe has 
destroyed me, or endeavoured to destroy me, but I don’t want to be 
destroyed, and I do not wish to destroy him.” 

It occurred to me at the time that Scott would have been more 
convincing and therefore his whole evidence more credible, if he had 
agreed that vindictiveness was part of his motive . But Scott plainly did 
not see himself in that light. The next outburst came soon afterwards. 

Carman: “You do appreciate that Mr Thorpe has consistently 
denied any homosexual relationship with you?” 

Scott: “Yes, sir.” 




RABBIT RllDUX 


113 


Carman: “Are you claiming the sexual activity on the first night at 
the home of Mrs [Ursula] Thorpe was without your consent?” 

At this point Scott became extremely emotional and started 
shouting. 

Scott: “There was nothing I could do because I was in their house, 
tired and very woozy. I was broken and crying. I did not know what 
was happening until it was too late. I assure you it happened.” 

Carman: “Do not get excited.” 

Scott (shouting): “I am not getting excited but it is stupid. Do you 
think I enjoy saying these terrible things or talking about it? It is 
most horrendous.” 

The judge: “If you only spoke like that when you began your 
evidence, we could have heard everything you said. It shows you can 
speak up.” 

The situation was fraught, and I could scacely believe my ears at 
this point. Unless I was very much mistaken the judge, having seen 
that Scott was in a highly emotional state, was deliberately baiting 
him, rather as one might approach a lunatic waving a knife in the 
street and give him a prod with one's umbrella - uncertain of what 
will happen next, but sure that it will be interesting. 

If so, he was not slow in getting his results. Scott was trying to 
enlarge on an answer he had given when the judge rebuked him for 
interrupting counsel. Scott’s anger burst out. 

Scott: “Sir, I am in contempt of this court. I will not answer any 
more questions.” 

The judge: “You may find that an uncomfortable place to be.” 

Scott: “I have gone on enough over the years with this story. I will 
not say any more.” 

The judge: “Do you want to go home now?” 

Scott: “I don't mind where I go. I won’t have myself destroyed in 
this way when he knows very well his client is lying. I have had 
enough.” 

Carman: “I am sorry Mr Scott, but it is my professional duty to 
ask a considerable number of further questions. Are you going to 
answer them?” 

Scott: “I have nothing to say.” 

There was an awkward pause. Mr Carman, 1 thought, looked as if 
he was enjoying himself. I found myself wondering whether he had 
really thought this matter through, and what would be the effect on 
the jury's mind if an important prosecution witness was sent down to 
cool his heels in the cells. At one point the judge had seemed prepared 
to send Scott home, which would have been an unusual development. 


114 


THE LAST WORD 


But the judge was obviously debating several possible courses of 
action. His next question was asked with an air of detached curiosity. 

The judge: “Are you going to answer further questions?” 

Scott: “No, sir.” 

There was another awkward pause, then - 

Scott: “Not if I am going to be treated as a most dreadful criminal. 
I am not a liar.” 

I thought I detected a weakening of Scott's resolve in this after - 
thought, but the judge, if he had decided to press the matter, could 
easily have had the witness striking new attitudes of defiance. Instead 
Mr Justice Cantley addressed him in a quiet, reasonable voice, 
without a hint of scorn, rather as one might speak to a recalcitrant 
child. It worked, and Scott reverted to the role of the child called 
to order. 

The judge: “Now listen here. There are two sides to this case. 
You have made allegations against Mr Thorpe, and it is his counsel’s 
duty to put Thorpe’s version. It necessarily involves this sort of 
questioning. That is why you are being questioned, and the jury in 
the end will decide what is the right answer. The jury are entitled to 
hear both sides. Every witness has to endure counsel’s questions.” 

If Scott had known that Thorpe would not have to endure any 
counsel's questions, or that the jury would be treated to Mr Justice 
Cantley's "last word" before deciding what was the right answer, he 
might have reacted differently. As it was, he calmed down and looked 
penitent. 

Scott: “Yes, sir. I am sorry, I am sorry.” 

Next Carman went through all the money Scott stood to receive 
for his story for the Daily Mirror - not much, as it turned out, when 
compared with Peter Bessell’s contract with the Sunday Telegraph. 
This was a boring passage for the press, who had heard it all before, 
but we later learned how much importance judge and jury attached 
to it. He asked what was the “going rate” for a Norman Scott 
photograph. 

Scott: “I have no idea, it seems very cheap at the moment.” 

The last time he had had a physical relationship with Thorpe was 
on the night before he went to Switzerland in December 1964, said 
Scott. 

Carman: “What obligation does Mr Thorpe owe you now?” 

Scott: “He owes me to tell the truth about the whole story. He has 
a moral obligation.” 

A little later, Scott agreed that he had been paid £2,500 by David 
Holmes for a bundle of letters from Mr Bessell. He had no idea why 





RABBIT REDUX 


115 


the letters were worth so much. Later, Scott wanted to get copies of 
these letters from a South African journalist, Gordon Winter, to 
whom he had given them earlier. He was asked why. 

Scott: “I was afraid I would be committed because of the whole 
story, because of my lies in the past ... I felt that people would 
regard my story as too fanciful for words and I would be committed 
to a lunatic asylum.” 

The purpose of this cross-examination was presumably to establish 
Scott either as a blackmailer or as someone obsessed with revenge. It 
is hard to see , logically , what the defence had to gain by establishing 
either of these two points , since they pointed to a motive for murder, 
and Scott's evidence was only of relevance in establishing this motive. 
But Mr Carman may have reckoned that Scott , in seeking to deny that 
he was either a blackmailer or inspired by revenge , would arouse 
scepticism in the jury which might then reflect on the main body of his 
evidence. 

Carman: “Are you not being vindictive?” 

Scott: “No, sir, merely answering questions.” 

Carman: “You were trying to destroy Mr Thorpe?” 

Scott: “No I was not. I went with Mrs Parry-Jones [to the Liberal 
Party enquiry] to sort out the problems of my national insurance. 
National insurance is my lifeblood. It has been throughout all this 
sordid time.” 

This remark - “National insurance is my lifeblood" - which surely 
deserves a place in the dictionary of quotations - may have con¬ 
tributed to the judge's celebrated conclusion (in his summing up) that 
Scott was a sponger. The judge also seemed to have decided at the end 
of the day that Scott was both a blackmailer and a man obsessed with 
revenge. Despite this , he seemed to invite the jury to disbelieve Scott's 
evidence - which , as Isay , was designed only to establish a motive for 
the murder conspiracy. Plainly , the judge did not like Scott very 
much , and one can perhaps understand why. 

Carman: “Did you boast of sexual affairs with well-known actors 
-1 don’t want any names.” 

Scott: “I have boasted of friendships with actors.” 

Carman: “Why did you do that?” 

Scott: “Because I did - I just did.” 

One quiet remark by Scott at this stage struck a poignant note for 
at least one of the journalists present. 

Scott: “I did not think this court would ever sit, I can assure you. I 
thought the establishment would cover it up.” 

Carman: “Have you an obsession about this?” 


116 


THL. LAST WORD 


Scott: “Of course I had. So would you if people were trying to kill 
you.” 

After playing around a little on the theme that Scott’s relations 
with the two journalists Penrose and Courtiour were too close - this 
line of defence was never really developed - Mr Carman produced 
what was to be the main defence posture in face of Scott’s evidence. 

Carman: “You knew Thorpe to be a man of homosexual tend¬ 
encies in 1961?” 

Scott: “Yes, sir.” 

Carman: “He was the most famous and distinguished person you 
had met at that time?” 

Scott: “Yes, sir. I think so.” 

Carman: “You were flattered that for a short time he introduced 
you into a different social world. I suggest you were upset and 
annoyed because he did not want to have sexual relationships with 
you.” 

Scott: “Of course that is ridiculous because he did.” 

Scott had just repeated his denial that he tried to make money out 
of the relationship by talking about it when Mr Taylor rose to 
re-examine. 

Mr Taylor's re-examination 

The doughty chief prosecutor was not going to leave the jury in any 
doubt of his belief that Thorpe had had a homosexual relationship 
with Scott. Strangely enough, he seemed to see this point as central 
to the existence of a murder conspiracy. Equally plainly, it was a 
matter on which the judge was unhappy to dwell. Mr Taylor’s main 
reason for believing in the homosexual relationship, which had been 
sworn by Scott and corroborated by Mr Bessell, was the bunnies 
letter. This puzzled some observers, who did not find the letter 
conclusive. 

Mr Taylor’s first question was a not very subtle reintroduction of 
the letter. 

Taylor: “You remember that you told Mr Carman earlier in the 
cross-examination that you knew of Mr Thorpe’s sexual tendencies 
before you went to see him at the House of Commons. It has been 
suggested that you were upset and annoyed because Mr Thorpe did 
not have sexual relations with you. What was your state of mind 
when Mr Thorpe wrote you a letter which ended: ‘Bunnies can and 
will go to France. Yours affectionately, Jeremy?’ ” 

Scott: “I was pleased and proud.” 

Mr Taylor then turned to some letters written by Thorpe to the 




RABBIT REDUX 


117 


character called Norman Vater or Van de Vater. Scott agreed he 
had stolen them from Van de Vater on leaving his employment. 

Taylor: “What was the nature of these letters?'’ 

Scott: “They were love letters.” 

Carman: “I object. What is the relevance of these letters?” 

The judge: “What is the relevance? It will be too late, when we 
get the answer, to know whether we ought to have had it .” 

Despite spirited objections from Mr Taylor, the judge forebade 
further questions about these letters. The jury must have been puzzled 
by the judge’s behaviour - if indeed, they had any intellectual curi¬ 
osity in the matter . We journalists who had been following the case 
knew the reason - that one of them, in a facetious aside, mentioned 
the famous Person whose name the judge was determined to keep out 
of the case at all costs. 

By forbidding any questions about Thorpe’s correspondence with 
Vater the judge prevented Mr Taylor explaining the circumstances in 
which Scott came to boast of a sexual relationship with Thorpe at a 
time when Scott scarcely knew him. But the ban on discussing this 
correspondence did not extend to the judge’s summing up, where he 
referred to the theft of the letters as an important indication that Scott 
was a blackmailer ergo odious, unreliable, not to be believed. 

In re-examination Mr Taylor also produced a few details of 
Scott’s tribulations before coming to court which he had, for some 
reason, omitted at the beginning. Scott described how he had been 
beaten up by two men in Barnstaple in February 1975 who had 
come out of the shadows and said, “Hello, Mr Josiffe.” On that 
occasion he was left unconscious with his teeth broken and taken to 
hospital. On another occasion he was frightened by people who 
landed a helicopter near his cottage on Exmoor. Finally, he received 
Scott's assurance that money received from television and news¬ 
paper concerns had not affected his evidence. 

If Mr Taylor hoped to win the judge’s sympathy for his witness by 
this account of Scott’s tribulations, or to impress the judge with 
Scott’s disinterestedness by this assurance, he was plainly going to 
be disappointed. The judge indicated that he had some questions to 
ask the witness. 

The judge: “How are you supporting yourself now?” 

Scott: “I am self-employed. I give dressage lessons.” 

Taylor: “You tell me you hunt.” 

Scott: “Yes, sir.” 

The judge: “Sounds very comfortably off.” 

Taylor: “How many horses have you got?” 


118 


THE LAST WORD 


Scott: “Three, including a pony which is for my daughter.” 

The judge: “How did you manage to get money to start the 
business?” 

Scott: “I used money from the television people ” 

The judge ordered Scott to return next day with his contract from 
Mirror Newspapers so that he could be questioned on it. Like nearly 
all the judge's contributions throughout the trial the effect of this 
interruption was to inform the jury in no uncertain terms that he, Sir 
Joseph Cantley OBE, had grave doubts about the witness. But he 
agreed that both Scott and Mr Bessell could be released after the 
matter had been dealt with. 

At the end of the eleventh day of the trial Mr Taylor revealed that 
the prosecution case was running one day ahead of its programme. 
It would appear that he had been expecting Mr Carman to cross- 
examine Scott at greater length . Scott himself seemed to be suffering 
from anti-climax. This was, after all, the moment he had been expect¬ 
ing, in one form or another, for nearly seventeen years -and 
Thorpe's counsel had dealt with him in a single day. 

The court adjourned. 


7 

The Hit Man 


Day twelve: 23 May 1979 

The morning was taken up with minor witnesses and written state¬ 
ments. First, a handwriting expert and forensic scientist, Dr 
R. J. Toddy, told the court that the entry for Scott’s first visit to Mrs 
Ursula Thorpe’s home on 8 November 1961 had, indeed, been 
tampered with. Scott claimed he had signed it with a false name, but 
the original writing had been erased and the words Norman and 
Lianche superimposed. 

Mrs Mary Collier, wife of the former Liberal candidate for 
Tiverton, Mr James Collier, agreed that Scott had come with his dog 
Mrs Tish to stay with them, at Thorpe’s request, around Christmas 
1961. She had been present at the luncheon at Broomhills Hotel. 
She had also been receptionist at the Easton Court Hotel when 
Scott was seen by police officers from Chelsea police station. She 
denied that Scott had discussed his sex life with her, or that she and 
Thorpe had discussed Scott’s sexual orientation. 

Her husband, James Collier, had nothing to add to this, except 
that Scott and Thorpe had been absent for about twenty minutes 
after the Broomhills lunch. Thorpe had stated quite openly that he 
had some shirts which might fit Scott. 

Other evidence was heard from Mr Arthur Rose, a neighbour of 
Scott and Mrs Parry-Jones in North Wales; Mr Thomas Daley, a 
personal assistant to Thorpe; Major Hambro, a Somerset farmer 
who briefly employed Scott at Thorpe’s request; Mrs Diana 
Attabey, a former secretary of Mr Bessell who arranged for Scott’s 
suitcase to be taken from Victoria Station to Mr Bessell’s office in 
Clarges Street - she was telephoned unusually by Thorpe, who 
wished to know whether the suitcase was safe, with the greeting 
“Diana darling, are you in a gorgeous negligee?” and assured him 
all was well: Mrs Sheila James, nee Skelton, another Bessell secret¬ 
ary, who confirmed payments to Scott; Mrs Zena King, yet another; 
Mr Leonard Ross, who was Mr Bessell’s solicitor and acted for Scott 


120 


THE LAST WORD 


over his divorce, until he was dismissed by Scott for deleting 
Thorpe’s name from the proceedings. His fees and expenses of 
£77.55 were paid by Thorpe in April 1973. None of these witnesses 
added anything substantive to the case against the four defendants; 
all were concerned with Thorpe’s possible motive for the crime. 

After the luncheon recess, Scott was recalled to the witness-box 
and questioned by Mr Carman about his contract with the Daily 
Mirror , which had been signed during the period Scott was giving 
evidence under oath at the Minehead hearing. 

It seemed an extraordinarily modest proposal. The advance of 
£3,000 - half on signature, half on delivery - would be shared 
between Scott and a Mr Dan Wooding, who had the job of converting 
Scott's 86,000 word synopsis into a coherent narrative, with Scott 
receiving 60%, Wooding 40%. 

Throughout this episode the judge appeared to be in a curiously 
elated mood, interrupting constantly with frivolous or mildly sarcas- 
tic observations. He remarked how modest it was of Mr Wooding not 
to want his name on the cover, and chuckled to himself for some time 
over this sally. He observed that the comic strip rights were also 
covered by the contract. The general tone of these procedings suc¬ 
ceeded in annoying Scott again. He became very angry over sugges¬ 
tions that Penrose and Courtiour had orchestrated the story against 
Thorpe, and announced that he no longer wished the book to be 
published. That was the last we saw of him. 

Mr Bull, junior counsel for the prosecution, then read a statement 
by Mrs Edna Friendship, licensee of the Market Inn, Barnstaple, 
who reported seeing Newton on his first approaches to Scott in 
October 1975. 

Mr Andrew Newton 

Finally, Newton arrived in the witness-box and affirmed, rather 
than take the oath. At Minehead Andrew Gino Newton, the airline 
pilot who claimed to have accepted the contract to kill Scott - first 
from Deakin, then more positively from Holmes - was at pains to 
create a debonair impression, arriving in a balaclava helmet in an 
Opel with blackened windows, narrowly missing photographers as 
he roared up to the courtroom. He seemed vague to the point 
almost of half-wittedness about the evidence he was giving, off¬ 
hand and at times distinctly cocky. Obviously addicted to thrillers, 
he reverted sometimes to bizarre criminal slang and plainly enjoyed 
the idea of himself as a character in some American pulp crime 
novel. 


THE HIT MAN 


121 


At Number One Court of the Old Bailey he was more subdued, at 
any rate to begin with. This may have been the result of a bizarre 
circumstance, witnessed with great amusement by the press rep¬ 
resentatives and lawyers who wandered in and out of court during 
the earlier proceedings. Scott and Newton were both waiting in the 
hall outside the court. They had last seen each other at Newton’s 
trial in Exeter, when Newton was untruthfully claiming to have 
been blackmailed by Scott, and Scott’s evidence sent him to prison. 
Before that, of course, they had last seen each other on Porlock 
Moor over the corpse of Rinka, when Newton appeared to be 
having difficulty with his pistol. Outside Number One Court, both 
were waiting to be called as Crown witnesses. They studiously 
ignored each other, would-be murderer and would-be victim, both 
pacing nervously around at opposite ends of the handsome marble 
hall. 

Before Newton started on the main part of his evidence, there 
was an application from defence counsel that Stuart Kuttner, a 
journalist employed by the Evening News , should leave the court¬ 
room. Kuttner had been involved in negotiations with Newton 
which, by Newton’s account (which the Evening News and Kuttner 
himself were later to deny) were of a very dubious nature. Newton’s 
suggestion was that Kuttner had offered him large, specified sums of 
money contingent on the conviction of various named people, start¬ 
ing with Sir Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister, on a charge 
of conspiracy to murder Norman Scott. Thorpe and Holmes were 
also named and priced, according to Newton. 

The judge agreed with alacrity that Mr Kuttner should leave the 
court during Newton’s evidence. It is hard to see exactly what was 
achieved by this since there was no question of calling him as a 
witness. The only effect must have been to reinforce Mr Carman's 
half-argued suggestion of a press conspiracy against Thorpe , dictated 
by commercial considerations and the desire for sensationalism. 
Certainly , it made not one tittle of difference to the conduct of the trial 
whether Kuttner was present or not , and he could have read all the 
evidence immediately afterwards. But the application for his removal 
had come, on Newton's suggestion, from Mr Mathew , counsel for 
Holmes. 

Newton's manner, at the beginning of his evidence , was subdued , 
as I have said. He seemed nervous of the judge, who interrupted from 
time to time to correct Newton's extraordinarily prolix manner of 
speaking. He also seemed to suspect , possibly not without reason , 
that the judge was mocking him. 


122 


THE LAST WORD 


This is the story which Newton told: 

During 1974 and 1975 Newton was a pilot with British Island 
Airways, mainly on domestic flights out of Blackpool, Gatwick and 
Manchester. Early in 1975 he was living in Blackpool. A friend 
from his days at Chiswick Polytechnic, David Miller, who ran a 
silk-screen printing business in Cardiff, took him to a trade dinner 
party on 26 February 1975 at the Savoy Hotel, Blackpool, where he 
met the defendant George Deakin, a man he knew slightly. As the 
result of an earlier conversation with Miller, Newton approached 
Deakin and said: “I understand you want someone bumped 
off. If you have got nobody, I am your man” - or words to that 
effect. 

Taylor: “What was it that you were volunteering to do?” 

Newton: “Initially to take out a contract on a person 
unknown . . ” 

Taylor: “What do you mean - take out a contract?” 

Newton: “By contract I mean that somebody was to be 
eliminated.” 

Taylor: “Would a shorter term be to kill someone?” 

The judge: “Murder.” 

Deakin at this stage was “interested” in his proposal, but Newton 
became so drunk at the dinner party that he could remember no 
more. Three weeks later he met Deakin at Miller’s business prem¬ 
ises in Cardiff, and the sum of £15,000 was mentioned. Later he 
arranged to meet Deakin at the Aust Service Station on the M4 
motorway. Deakin gave him some photographs of Scott, said 
“that’s him,” and revealed that the fee was £10,000, not £15,000. 
He mentioned the town of Dunstable. 

Taylor: “Did you ask any questions?” 

Newton: “Yes, only the sort of questions you would expect a hit 
man to ask.” There was laughter in court. “I say this only from what 
I had seen in films.” 

Newton said he asked Deakin whether there was a burglar alarm 
and if the man had any dogs. He was told there was no dog. 

This produced a certain amount of laughter in court. 

Newton: “It bothered me. If I had to approach Mr Scott, I would 
not want a dog to attack me.” 

Loud laughter, called to order. 

The judge: “This is certainly not funny.” 

Newton asked, but was not told, who wished to have the man 
killed and why. He went to Dunstable but could find no trace of 
anyone called Norman Scott. Deakin then gave him the number of 


THE HIT MAN 


123 


David Holmes in Manchester. Holmes told him that Scott did not 
live in Dunstable but Barnstaple, Devon. 

He arranged to meet Holmes over coffee in the Royal Court 
Hotel, Sloane Square, London. Holmes confirmed the offer of 
£10,000 and said he would be happier to have Scott vanish off the 
face of the earth without leaving a body. The method of disposal was 
left to Newton. 

Newton telephoned Scott at the Market Inn, Barnstaple, claiming 
to represent the Pensiero Group of Italy and saying he wanted to 
hire Scott for some modelling work. It was agreed that Scott should 
go to Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, where Newton booked a 
room for him. That day Newton bought a coal chisel and a bunch of 
flowers, intending to hide the chisel within the bunch of flowers 
when he called at the hotel, and then to use the chisel to hit Scott 
over the head and kill him. However, Scott did not turn up for the 
appointment. Newton was greatly relieved by this. Holmes did not 
sound too surprised by this development when Newton told him on 
the telephone. “Leave it to me,” said Holmes. “I will set something 
up.” 

Newton was being shown the chisel - an ugly object, looking 
more like a crowbar, and identifying it as the one he had purchased 
with the flowers, when the court adjourned until next day. 


Day thirteen: 24 May 1979 

Mr Newton's story continued 

After the episode of the coal chisel and the missed appointment in 
the Royal Garden Hotel, Newton realised he had not the stomach to 
murder. 

Newton: “It was something I did not want to do. It was something 
I knew from that day on I could not carry out. It was something I had 
found out about myself as a person.” 

On another occasion, Newton looked at the judge with what 
might have been puppyish appeal. 

Newton: “I am asking you to believe that after the Royal Garden 
Hotel the scene changed. Hopefully, I thought it would fizzle out.” 

Holmes now told Newton that he had spoken to Scott using the 
name Masterson as an alias. Posing as a press association reporter, 
he had arranged to interview Scott at the Holiday Inn, Bristol. 
Newton was expected to turn up and kill Scott, but once again, Scott 
was not there. This was a “traumatic experience” for Newton who 
resolved not to go on with the killing. He feared for his own safety at 


124 


THE LAST WORD 


this stage. He decided on delaying tactics, and telephoned Holmes 
from Bristol. 

Newton: “I told Holmes to leave everything to me because I 
wanted the reins back in my hands so that I could manipulate the 
situation and hopefully defuse it.” 

He had an idea he might be able to frighten Scott and borrowed a 
gun for the purpose from a friend in London. On 11 October 1975 
he drove down to Barnstaple from Blackpool and spotted his quarry 
in the Three Tuns public house. He approached him next morning 
in the Pannier Market and said to him, “I want to talk about this 
blackmail.” Scott burst into a sweat and started stuttering. They 
went to the Imperial Hotel where Scott said he was living in fear of 
his life. As they talked, Newton took the notes on pink paper which 
were produced in court, although never read out. 

Scott said he thought Newton might have been hired to kill him - 
Newton replied that on the contrary, he had been hired to protect 
him. Scott suggested that Marion Thorpe might have hired him for 
this purpose, and Newton agreed to this, although the whole story 
was then untrue. Newton asked why he was being hired to protect 
Scott, and Scott poured out the story of his life. Newton suggested 
that if the threats on Scott’s life were to do with the letters, he should 
come to some arrangement with Thorpe’s solicitors. Scott was 
against the idea. Newton received the impression that although the 
prospect of £5,000 was attractive to Scott, being able to ruin Thorpe 
was even more attractive. 

Newton told him that a man from Canada was coming to kill him. 
This was a lie but it brought them closer together. 

Scott showed him some letters from Thorpe and Bessell. When 
Newton mentioned this to Holmes later, Holmes asked if the letters 
were originals. Newton said they were, and Holmes said: “ Oh, Jesus 
Christ!” 

The arrangement to murder Scott still stood. 

Newton: “After much thought, the thing that came to my mind 
was to try and frighten Scott with a bungled murder attempt. The 
plan was to have a firearm, to lure Scott into an open place and to 
try and shoot him, and have the gun jam.” 

Newton got in touch with Scott, using the false name of Peter 
Keene, and they arranged to meet in a hotel at Combe Martin, in 
Devon, on 24 October. He drove there with his gun and ammuni¬ 
tion in a car borrowed from his girl-friend. 

Scott turned up with a huge dog, and refused to leave it behind on 
the drive to Porlock, so the dog came along too. On the return 


THE HIT MAN 


125 


journey, Newton pretended to be tired. Scott offered to drive. 
Newton stopped in a lay-by. All three got out of the car and Newton 
shot the dog. 

Newton: “Well, once the dog was out of the way I could carry on 
with the plan of frightening Scott. If I had tried levelling the gun at 
Scott I could not have been sure that the dog would not have had a 
go at me. The dog was a monstrous size ... so I shot it.” 

Then he levelled the gun at Scott and said, “It’s your turn now.” 
Next he said, “Oh it’s jammed,” and walked to the front of the car, 
pretending to unjam it. Once again he pointed the gun at Scott, but 
Scott just stood staring at his dead dog. 

Newton: “Scott still stood there. He made no move to go so I got 
back in the car and said, ‘I will see you another time.’ It’s as stupid 
and as simple as that.” 

When Scott asked him what he had done to the dog, he replied 
that he had tranquillised it. Afterwards, he reversed his car and 
drove back to Porlock. 

Newton's insistence that he had no intention of killing Scott after 
the Royal Garden Hotel incident did not, of course, destroy the 
Crown case for conspiracy to murder, but it certainly confused it 
from the point of view of the jurors, who were later to be bombarded 
by defence representations that there had been no conspiracy to 
murder in the first place . 

Newton now asked the judge if he could make some explanation 
about the shooting, and when the judge demurred, he launched into 
a confused speech which he had obviously been preparing. 

Newton: “The trouble of being in this witness-box ... I felt that 
when I was on trial at Exeter that it wasn’t me on trial but Jeremy 
Thorpe and others. As I stand in this witness-box I have a big 
stigma. Obviously I have done a lot of things of which I am not 
proud and a lot of things which have made it difficult for me. There 
is still one stigma which sticks with me. It is what actually happened 
on the moor that night which has not been fully explained and I 
would like a chance to explain it.” 

The judge: “You can tell the court something which happened on 
the moor that night, but you are not to express your thoughts or 
theories.” 

Newton: “Well, the thing I’m trying to say ... all right, I 
have admitted trying to kill Norman Scott at the Royal Garden 
Hotel . . .” 

The judge: “You are not on trial here, you know.” 

Newton: “I am sorry, my lord, I am.” 


126 


THE LAST WORD 


The judge: “Well youre not. Take that from me and don’t 
talk nonsense. You can tell us if there is anything which happened 
on the moor, but you are not going to make a speech to the 
jury.” 

Newton: “That’s all right. What I wanted to say probably w'ould 
not interest you.” 

With a withering, hurt glance at the judge, Newton continued his 
story. 

After the dog-shooting incident on the moor, said Newton, he 
drove to his friend David Miller’s business premises in Cardiff and 
made a great pretence of unjamming the pistol. The same night he 
washed the inside of the car, where the seats were covered with 
dog’s blood. He then went away on holiday with his girl-friend and 
Miller to the Far East, having first telephoned Deakin from 
Heathrow Airport and told him what had happened. 

On 18 November 1975 he and Miller were met by police on their 
return to England. After being interviewed he was arrested and 
subsequently tried for being in possession of a firearm with intent to 
endanger life. While on bail he had six or seven meetings with 
Holmes, in the course of which Holmes gave him £400 and learned 
of news about the forthcoming trial. Newton invented a defence 
that Scott was blackmailing him over a nude photograph which 
would be shown to his employers; he intended to frighten Scott into 
returning the photograph and stopping the blackmail. There had 
been no intention to endanger life. This defence, Newton said, was 
his own invention and a lie. Holmes told him he would be paid 
£5,000, but he might go to prison for six months. Holmes assured 
him that Thorpe and other important people were anxious to help 
his defence, and steps were being taken. The £5,000 would be paid 
after the trial, or when he came out of prison. There was a tacit 
agreement that no names would be mentioned at the trial. 

The trial started at Exeter Crown Court on 16 March 1976. He 
was convicted and given a two-year prison sentence, being released 
on parole on 16 April 1977. Soon afterwards he met David Miller in 
Cardiff, who took him to a suspicious rendezvous with Le Mesurier 
at a remote spot in North Wales. Le Mesurier was sitting in a 
mini-car. He pointed over Newton’s shoulder and said, “Telephoto 
lenses, what is going on?” 

Newton was suspicious, fearing a set-up. He thought he would be 
murdered and encased in concrete. Both men were alarmed when a 
car passed them with a woman dangling out of it with a camera. A 
man was at the wheel. 



THE HIT MAN 


127 


These, it later emerged, were private enquiry agents hired by Miller 
for the purpose of collecting souvenirs of the occasion. 

They drove off to a cement or brick factory compound, and Le 
Mesurier said he had something for him but “the people in London” 
wanted to be sure he would keep quiet. Newton was now very 
scared, but he took the money and let himself be driven by Miller to 
Cardiff station where he took a train to London and counted the 
money in a toilet. He hid the £5,000 in his mother’s Chiswick home; 
later he told the police where they could find it. They recovered 
£3,190, the rest having been spent. 

Newton devoted the next few weeks to recording conversations 
with Holmes and other conspirators, although he could not get 
through to Thorpe. He thought the conspirators should find him a 
job, and wanted the tapes as security. Holmes suggested he should 
go to South Africa for a job. Newton made various tape recordings 
of conversations with Holmes in an attempt to implicate him in the 
conspiracy to murder, as a protection for himself in the event of 
anything happening to him. He felt the South African suggestion 
was bogus, being an attempt to implicate the South African gov¬ 
ernment in some anti-Thorpe plot. 

He was told to contact General Peter Walls in Salisbury, 
Rhodesia, but was unable to do so. The police later took possession 
of his tape-recordings, and he was given immunity from further 
prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

That ended Newton’s evidence-in-chief. Before the court 
adjourned, Mr Taylor announced he would be playing some of 
Newton’s tape-recordings. Judge, jury, legal advisers and police put 
on special headphones. Journalists and members of the public fol¬ 
lowed as best they could from the public address system. The first 
tape was nearly inaudible, but agreed typescripts were made avail¬ 
able to judge, jury and lawyers. 

The first conversation was between Newton and Holmes, the 
second between Newton and Le Mesurier. So was the third, lasting 
eighteen minutes. Newton is anxious to secure a job, but is told that 
Holmes, too, is in job difficulties because of his connection with the 
Thorpe case. They gossip about press interest in the police enquiry. 
Le Mesurier claims that Penrose and Courtiour are having trouble 
getting their book published. 

Le Mesurier: “Seven publishers have turned it down so we don’t 
think that’s going to be a great danger . . . The danger for you and I 
and for anyone else for that matter ... is that the whole lot is raked 
up again. But they've got to prove it.” 


128 


THE LAST WORD 


Newton: “Holmes told me that people higher up than him are 
involved - the press, for example, suspect Goodman’s part in this.” 

Le Mesurier: “Yeh, well, he’s chairman of the Press Council.” 

Newton: “Is he really?” 

Le Mesurier: “Yeh, so what editor is going to have a go at him if it 
happened?” 

Newton: “I know how it was done, how the whole thing was set up 
and so do you, right?” 

Le Mesurier: “We know from where it came .. . it’s just five 
people know ... I am assured that they are the only people that 
absolutely know all about it.” 

Newton: “They feel a Thomas a Becket was done - you know, 
with Thorpe sort of raving that would nobody rid me of this man.” 

Le Mesurier: “Yes.” 

Newton: “And somebody obliged.” 

Le Mesurier: “Yes.” 

Newton: “And who was closer perhaps than Holmes, you know.” 

Le Mesurier: “Yes.” 

The last tape was between Newton and Holmes. It lasted nearly 
half an hour. New ton tells of an incident which he thought had been 
an attempt on his life when a lorry jack-knifes on him. 

Newton: “It took three blinking attempts to run me over, you 
know, and I take great exception to this.” 

Holmes: “I assure you the incident had nothing to do with me.” 

Later, when Newton mentions “John the carpet” (Le Mesurier), 
he is rebuked again by Holmes. 

Holmes: “Stop producing names in every conversation because, I 
mean, the w'hole thing terrifies me. I know w'ho you are talking 
about - get on.” 

The tape ended with the sentence which was held by the prosecu¬ 
tion to implicate Holmes in a conspiracy to murder, rather than 
frighten. Listening to it, and knowing Newton s motive for holding 
the conversation, one could scarcely see it as conclusive. At most, it 
offered a doubtful corroboration to Newton*s claim that he was hired 
to murder Scott. But on a charge of conspiracy to frighten, or even of 
criminal assault, it is hard to see that Holmes*s goose would not have 
been cooked. 

Newton: “. . . there is a charge, you know, a conspiracy to 
bloody . . .” 

Holmes: “I’m remembering that very carefully.” 

Newton: “. . . to murder, right, so now . . . let’s keep it quiet, 
OK?” 




THE HIT MAN 


129 


Holmes: “Just fine, and you may rely on that.” 
The trial was adjourned until next day. 


Day fourteen: IS May 1979 

Mr Mathew’s cross-examination 

From the outset, Mr Mathew made it plain that he was not going to 
deny that there had been a plot to frighten Norman Scott, or that 
Holmes had hired Newton for that purpose. Newton agreed that it 
had been his intention to frighten Scott, and claimed that he had 
successfully done so, but resolutely maintained that he had been 
hired to kill him. Mr Mathew was concerned to suggest that Newton 
was lying on this point, being inspired by greed and the prospect of 
reward. His cross-examination was directed towards establishing 
that offers of money had been made, money had been received, 
further money was expected, and Newton was an untrustworthy 
witness on his previous record. None of these propositions was 
difficult to establish. Mr Mathew’s three and a half hours of exami¬ 
nation proved the most entertaining passage of the trial, at any rate 
for most people attending it. The judge appeared to find his own 
summing up at the end even funnier. 

Newton cheerfully agreed that he had told many lies about the 
case, and that it created a problem, when telling lies, to remember 
what he had said on previous occasions. Mathew’s sneering manner 
did not seem to rattle him in the least. 

Mathew: “ You find it difficult to remember what is fact and what 
is fiction?” 

Newton: “I think you are falling into the realms of sorcery with 
words.” 

Mathew: “I was quoting what you said on a previous occasion.” 

Newton: “I am being taken out of context.” 

Mathew: “I will put it into context. Did you answer, in reply to the 
very first question which was put to you in cross-examination at 
Minehead: T do sometimes find it difficult to distinguish between 
fact and fantasy regarding this case?’ ” 

Newton: “Oh yes, 1 do remember saying that.” 

Mathew: “It accurately described your state of mind at 
Minehead?” 

Newton: “Yes.” 

Mathew: “But not now?” 

Newton: “Not now.” 

First point to Mr Mathew. But Newton s was the voice of the New 


130 


THE LAST WORD 


Age: flippant, cynical, self-righteous, stupid and television-fed into a 
sort of mindless conceit. Newton was not going to be browbeaten. 

Mathew: “You present the facts in a way beneficial to yourself, 
and that is the only criteria you apply?” 

Newton: “I wish you would stop prostituting yourself. You say 
that your client was not guilty of murder .. .” 

Mr Mathew interrupted what might have been a most entertain¬ 
ing harangue. 

Mathew: “You lied on oath during your trial at Exeter Crown 
Court over the dog-shooting incident?” 

Newton: “Yes, I was trying to save my own skin in the same way 
that the defendants are.” 

Mr Mathew took him in detail through all the lies he had told at 
Exeter, and the wealth of false evidence he had produced to cor¬ 
roborate the untrue story that Scott had been blackmailing him. 

Mathew: “It comes to this - in order to protect yourself you 
were prepared falsely to accuse someone of a very serious crime, 
blackmail?” 

Newton: “Yes, with the help of your client.” 

Perhaps Newton's cheerfulness derived from the fact that he had 
been given immunity from prosecution for his perjury at Exeter. A 
letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions gave him this immun¬ 
ity on the conspiracy charge -and also immunity from prosecution 
for attempted murder. Yet for some reason which the judge never 
allowed him to explain, Newton was gloomily insistent that he did not 
attempt to murder Scott, that he only pretended the gun had jammed. 
He could still be prosecuted for perjury in the Old Bailey, he pointed 
out. Mr Mathew chose to ignore this point. 

Mathew: “This has opened the door to you because you have now 
arrived at what can only be described as a money-making situation, 
would you agree?” 

Newton: “Yes, money has been made.” 

Mathew: “And is still to be made?” 

Newton: “That is debatable.” 

The witness revealed that he had great difficulty finding employ¬ 
ment since the story of the dog-shooting episode became common 
knowledge, although he had made many attempts. Mr Mathew 
reminded him that at Minehead he had said he was devoting himself 
substantially to negotiating the sale of his book of memoirs. 

Newton: “You are splitting hairs and trying to put up a big 
smoke-screen. I personally have never approached a company to 
try to sell my story. In fact, they have been coming to me. Unlike 


THE HIT MAN 


131 


one of the defendants - they themselves tried to sell the story - so 
you cannot accuse me of being more enterprising. Your client in fact 
tried to sell stories. When you take away a person’s livelihood how 
else is he supposed to live?” 

Mathew: “You were resolved to milk this case as hard as you 
could. Is that a correct statement?” 

Newton: “No. You are way off mark . . .” 

Mathew: “Did you say at Minehead, ‘This case is the sole source 
of income I have. It is right to say I am resolved to milk it as hard as I 
can’?” 

Newton: “Yes. That was a statement of fact at Minehead, but not 
before Minehead.” 

Mathew: “Is it correct that your state of mind at that time was that 
you were resolved to milk it as hard as you can?” 

Newton: “At that time.” 

Mathew: “Does that remain your state of mind and intention?” 

Newton: “Most certainly it is.” 

The judge: “You are still resolved to milk the case as hard as you 
can?” 

Newton: “Yes, sir.” 

The judge: “I see.” 

Newton did not appear to see any inconsistency between this 
answer and his earlier one to Mr Mathew - “No y you are way off 
mark . ” No doubt it was all a question of mood. His answer to the next 
question , given in even more emphatic terms , was possibly even more 
damaging to his credibility . 

Mathew: “It is going to be a very much easier case to milk and you 
are going to obtain a great deal more milk if these defendants are 
convicted on this charge - correct?” 

Newton: “That is absolutely correct.” 

Mr Mathew next took Newton through the various sums he had 
already received for his story from newspapers and television com¬ 
panies. These amounted to £10,950 made up as follows: 


Evening News 

£3,000 

Der Spiegel 

£4,000 

Daily Express 

£600 

American Broadcasting 


Corporation 

£2,000 

Columbia Broadcasting 


Corporation 

£500 

Canadian Television 

£850 


132 


THE LAST WORD 


Later, Newton was questioned about his dealings with Penrose 
and Courtiour. He denied entering into any arrangements with 
them, but claimed his then solicitor had done so behind his back. 

The judge: “Not on his own behalf, surely?” 

Newton: “There’s other crooks around, you know.” 

The judge: “Was he trying to sell things?” 

Newton: “You’ve hit it right on the head, my lord. He undertook 
to sell - or as he put it, give - some tapes to Barrie Penrose and 
Roger Courtiour. I am getting the Law Society to look into it.” 

The judge: “You can get the money back from the solicitors, you 
know?” 

Newton: “Good. I’m glad to hear it. And I hope they come up 
before you.” 

There was much good-natured laughter at that point. 

Two journalists who visited him in prison were Keith Dovkants 
and Stuart Kuttner, then both working for the Evening Standard. 
Later, when Mr Kuttner was working for the Evening News, 
Newton demanded £100,000 for his story or possibly £80,000 but 
Kuttner would not offer more than £40,000 and no agreement was 
reached. Or that seemed to be what Newton and Mr Mathew agreed 
between them. The Evening News later denied it all, as it denied the 
extraordinary suggestions which followed (these alleged negotia- 
ions took place in the early autumn of 1977, before Newton had 
been given immunity from prosecution). 

Mathew: “That figure was offered on the basis - and only on the 
basis - that you were prepared to say that this was a conspiracy to 
murder, rather than an agreement to do anything else, correct?” 

Newton: “Yes, I was expected to say exactly what happened.” 

Mathew: “Is it right that Mr Kuttner made it clear to you that he 
was out to get Mr Holmes for a conspiracy to murder?” 

Newton: “Absolutely.” 

Mathew: “It was made absolutely clear to you, was it not, that 
there was really only any money in this story if it was a conspiracy to 
murder - they weren’t interested in anything else, were they?” 

Newton: “No, they were interested anyway. But obviously the 
story had a higher premium with the conspiracy to murder.” 

Mathew: “Did you say to Mr Kuttner at any time these words: 
‘Supposing I was only sent money to put the frighteners on him, how 
would that sound?’ ” 

Newton: “Yes, I did.” 

Mr Mathew put it to him that he had denied this three times at 
Minehead {although my notes of the Minehead cross-examination 



THE HIT MAN 


133 


only give Newton as saying that he can't remember ). Newton’s 
explanation for this odd question scarcely made it any clearer. 

Newton: “I said that because we were with solicitors, I wanted to 
find out the prices on the various people’s heads, what the price was 
for conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to frighten.*’ 

The suggestion was that these were probing questions. At that 
time Newton had no immunity and was still pretending that the 
story he told at his trial was true. However, Newton agreed with Mr 
Mathew that Kuttner made it clear he was only interested in a 
conspiracy to murder. This, according to Newton, was the tariff 
proposed by Kuttner for convictions on a charge of conspiracy to 
murder: 


For Harold Wilson’s head £150,000 
For Jeremy Thorpe’s head $200,000 
For David Holmes’s head $130,000 

Newton said the offer was open to anyone but agreed that it had, 
in fact, been made to him. He spoke with scorn about “these 
Paradisal promises which people make - they don’t materialise.” At 
Minehead, he had referred to Kuttner as a “dreamboat journalist,” 
and it plainly rankled that no contract had ever materialised. He was 
never offered more than £35,000 and did not sign the contract, 
although one was drawn up. No, he did not have a copy of the 
contract. 

The judge (to Mr Mathew): “Perhaps you could serve a witness 
summons on the Evening News and make them produce it.” 

Mr Mathew: “Thank you very much, my lord.” 

But he did not take advantage of the judge's thoughtful suggestion , 
perhaps suspecting that the unsigned contract would prove less excit¬ 
ing than Newton's description of the original proposals. 

Newton could not recall being introduced on American television 
as “Andrew Newton, trying to make a buck and apparently doing a 
pretty good job of it.” But he agreed it was a true description. 

Mathew: “You have the clearest possible motive to perjure your¬ 
self in this case?” 

Newton: “Yes, I have.” 

Mr Mathew referred Newton to a conflict of testimony between 
himself and Miller about Miller’s degree of involvement in the 
murder conspiracy. At Minehead, Miller had referred to Newton as 
a habitual liar. 

Newton: “That is quite possible.” 

Mathew: “He called you ‘chicken-brain.’ ” 


134 


THE LAST WORD 


Newton: “I would go along with that.” 

Mathew: “He said, T am sure Newton can tell fact from fantasy, 
but he tells lies anyway.’ ” 

No further attempt was made to exploit the spectacle of thieves 
falling out - possibly because Newton refused to be drawn into 
attacking Miller . 

Mathew: “I will be suggesting to you that so far as Mr Holmes is 
concerned you were never asked to do anything than put the fear of 
God into Scott.” 

Newton denied this. 

Mathew: “He told you that the first action he wanted taken was 
for an offer to be made to get this man Scott to return all the 
documents he had and to sign a document saying everything he was 
saying was a pack of lies.” 

Newton: “Absolutely not.” 

Newton said it was a good story, but untrue. He had thought it up 
himself when he first met Scott in the Imperial Hotel, Barnstaple. 

Mathew: “You were being asked by Mr Holmes that if that 
failed, in some way which was left to you, you were to frighten Mr 
Scott to such an extent that he would finally keep quiet about his 
allegations.” 

Newton: “I daresay that if you repeat it often enough someone 
will believe you, but that is a pack of lies.” 

Mr Mathew went on to suggest that Newton had suggested killing 
Scott-“it would be much cleaner” - and Holmes had forbidden him 
to do anything of the sort. Newton interrupted from time to time 
with various disavowals. “Absolutely incorrect;” “no chance;” 
“nice one, but you’re absolutely wrong.” 

But this, it appeared, was to be Holmes's defence: that he had hired 
Newton to frighten Scott at most, that Newton had suggested killing 
him but Holmes had explicitly repudiated the idea. If Mr Holmes had 
decided to give evidence, this is what he would have said, and we 
would have been given a chance to judge who was lying. However, 
for some reason at which we are not even allowed to guess, Holmes 
decided not to give evidence, and the jury decided to disbelieve 
Newton anyway. 

Next, Mr Mathew started pouring scorn on Newton’s story of the 
appointment in the Royal Garden Hotel. Scott had no memory of 
any such arrangement, said Mr Mathew. 

Mathew: “The truth is there was no firm arrangement for Scott to 
go to the Royal Garden Hotel. You say you were going to beat him 
to death in a hotel bedroom - that’s nonsense, isn’t it?” 






THE HIT MAN 


135 


Newton: “I wish it was.” 

Mathew: “And the flowers were a little embellishment?” 

Newton: “No.” 

The judge: “But you were going to meet a man. Why was it 
necessary to have a bunch of flowers?” 

Newton explained that he intended to disguise the chisel in the 
flowers. In case he was stopped by a security guard, he would say he 
was delivering the flowers. 

Newton: “I mean you know that was what ’appened.” 

Newton was at last beginning to look rattled by this combined 
onslaught from judge and counsel. He referred to an earlier state¬ 
ment to the police. 

Newton: “What I am saying is I lied, of course I lied, as your 
clients are going to lie.” 

In this matter y of course, he was wrong. Mr Mathew's client, 
Holmes, was not going to open his mouth at all, but none of us knew it 
at this stage. 

Mathew: “You know perfectly well that you had bricks to break 
up, and that one of the reasons you bought the chisel was for the 
bricks, isn’t it?” 

The judge (fiercely): “Isn’t it? Remember, Mr Newton, there are 
three answers to any question - ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘don’t know’ - but 
answer it you must and don’t fool about.” 

Newton: “Yes.” 

Mathew: “Why didn’t you tell us that ten minutes ago?” 

Newton: “It is difficult to remember incidents of four years 
earlier.” 

Mathew: “It was very convenient, wasn’t it? It was an implement 
you could tell the police, and anyone else who came to pay you 
money, that was to be used to kill Norman Scott. That is true, isn’t 
it?” 

Newton: “No.” 

The morning’s cross-examination ended with a discussion of the 
plan to kill Scott in the Holiday Inn, Bristol. Newton said that 
although he had no intention of killing Scott by then, he went to 
Bristol because this was what Holmes required him to do, and he 
feared for his safety. This was because of the two attempts to run 
him over which he had described the day before. 

The afternoon started with a fine flurry of drama. Mr Mathew had 
been given an American police report of the traffic incident when 
Newton claimed that three attempts were made to run him over by a 
lorry which jack-knifed. The American police reports were sup- 


136 


THE LAST WORD 


plied to Mr Mathew by the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

Mr Mathew suggested that they showed Newton’s account of the 
incident to be a pack of lies. Newton denied he had even made a 
statement to the police about the incident and said the police report 
was invented. 

Mathew: “If it was invented, it was apparently invented by the 
Department of Justice of the FBI.” 

Newton agreed that he was the man knocked over. 

Mathew: “But you’re not the pedestrian who made the complaint 
to the police?” 

At this point the judge moved in and accused Newton of laughing. 

Newton: “I am not laughing. I’m just frustrated.” 

Mathew: “Oh no you’re not. You’re not frustrated, you are a liar, 
aren’t you? You can’t laugh this one off.” 

Most people in court, apart from the main participants were laugh¬ 
ing by now , but Mr Mathew seemed determined that he had caught 
Newton out in a major lie. Newton was suitably indignant. The 
spectacle of three highly indignant people - witness , counsel and 
judge - all talking at cross-purposes struck me, at any rate, as very 
droll. Mr Mathew quoted from the alleged police report, saying that 
“complainant (ie the pedestrian on-looker) also stated he did not 
think the driver was aware of striking him (ie Newton) for he was hit 
with the rear end of the trailer” 

Newton stoutly reaffirmed that the driver made three attempts to 
run him over. His indignation, as Mathew put the American police 
report to him, was a beautiful sight. 

Newton: “I don’t know who invented this. Perhaps you had 
better ask the politicians or something . . . How dandy that is. How 
nice!. . .TheFBI-oh how convenient! You see what they’re doing 
in Cuba and Chile. We have a piece of paper by the FBI. How 
ridiculous. Oh, take it away.” 

The judge: “No, we won’t take it away. We want to give it an 
exhibit number.” 

Mathew: “Are you aware these documents came into the pos¬ 
session of defence counsel after enquiries made by the Director of 
Public Prosecutions?” 

Newton: “Yes.” 

Mathew: “Are you suggesting the DPP has deliberately invented 
this in order to demonstrate that you are a perjurer?” 

Newton: “I’m just in ignorance of who has concocted it - but I 
certainly know why. This is an absolute farce.” 

Mathew: “Talk as long as you like, but there’s no way you can 




THE HIT MAN 


137 


get around the fact that you have been proved before this jury 
to be an unmitigated liar, on oath, in that witness-box. Is that a 
fact?” 

Newton: “. . . One day someone will write his memoirs about this 
and you'll look back and think ‘Oh, perhaps Newton was telling the 
truth.' I suppose we’ve got to wait twenty-five years for that.” 

The most hilarious aspect of this episode was that everyone else - 
apart from judge, counsel and witness - could see that it was almost 
entirely irrelevant. Mr Mathew invested it with histrionic solemnity, 
and the judge always seemed delighted that any Crown witness 
should be shown a liar; accordingly, Newton over-reacted in his own 
implausible way. But the worst light this exchange threw on him was 
to suggest he had exaggerated in the account of his adventures with a 
lorry in America -at a time when he was plainly both frightened and 
concussed. Either way, the story had absolutely nothing to do with his 
evidence against Holmes and the other alleged conspirators - it was 
as if Mr Mathew had trapped Newton into repeating some childhood 
lie about seeing dragons. But both Mr Mathew and the judge seemed 
to see it as a major breakthrough. 

Next Mr Mathew asked about the incident on Porlock Moor 
when, as Newton now claimed, he pretended his gun had jammed. 
At Exeter he had said he intended to shoot and miss Scott, but the 
gun had jammed anyway after he had shot the dog. Mr Mathew 
asked which of the two versions was to be believed, and Newton said 
the second - he was pretending the gun had jammed. 

Both Mr Mathew and the judge seemed in some difficulty here. 
They were determined that Newton was a villain and was lying when 
he said he had only pretended the gun had jammed, and convinced 
that the gun had indeed jammed; but this did not help the defence case 
much, except to show Newton s general unreliability. If the gun had 
genuinely jammed, it might have been a genuine murder attempt. 
This was unhelpful to Mr Mathew, who was briefed that it was a plot 
to frighten Scott, and unhelpful to the judge, who seemed anxious that 
men of the defendants’ “unblemished reputation” should not be 
convicted on such disreputable evidence. 

The judge: “What were the reasons behind these differing 
versions?” 

Newton:“Iinvented thestoryin the cells while I was in Bridgwater. .. 
I was telling lies left, right and centre to save my own skin.” 

The judge: “Your second version would have done quite well at 
Exeter.” 

Mr Mathew pursued the matter, insisting that Newton was lying 


138 


THE LAST WORD 


and the gun had genuinely jammed. Why had Newton told the man 
who supplied the gun - Mr Meighan - that it had jammed?” 

Newton: “I did not tell Mr Meighan that the gun had jammed.’” 

Mathew: “An agreed statement will be read later (from Mr 
Meaghen) saying that you told him the gun had jammed.” 

Newton: “It was easier to pretend the gun had jammed than 
explain you were a coward and couldn't go through with it. Here I 
am a hit man, and not a hair on him was touched.” 

Mr Mathew said it was not disputed that meetings between 
Newton and Holmes took place, and it was not disputed that money 
had passed between them. All that was disputed was the nature of 
Newton’s brief. 

Newton: “I am telling you what the brief w F as, and that was to 
murder.” 

There was a mysterious difference of opinion between Newton 
and Mr Mathew about how much money Holmes had paid Newton 
between the dog-shooting and the Exeter trial. Newton said it was 
£300 and £100, denying that it was £300 and £500, as Mr Mathew 
had apparently been instructed. 

Newton also agreed that a letter purporting to be from him in 
prison to Holmes had, in fact, been forged by Barrie Penrose; that 
when he visited Holmes in Manchester, it was to collect supporting 
evidence for his Evening News story; that he telephoned Holmes in 
order to get incriminating evidence by deceit and trickery. 

Mathew: “Trickery and deceit have been your trademark 
throughout this matter haven’t they?” 

Newton: “Yes.” 

On that note, Mr Mathew sat down after three and a half hours of 
cross-examination. He had succeeded beyond reasonable doubt in 
demonstrating that Newton was an unreliable witness. All that was 
required was his client as witness to demonstrate that Newton was not 
telling the truth. The questions left in my mind were how many hit 
men, called to give evidence against the people who hired them, 
would be any more reliable; and, in the absence of more reliable 
evidence than that, how the hirers of a hit man could ever be 
convicted? 

Mr Williams's cross-examination 

Mr Williams next stood up to start his cross-examination on behalf 
of Deakin. He revealed a mean, Welsh, insinuating manner from 
the start, but Newton seemed relieved to be rid of Mr Mathew, and 
agreed in answer to Mr Williams’s question that Deakin was only on 




THE HIT MAN 


139 


the periphery of the matter and that he had no knowledge of Le 
Mesurier’s involvement. 

Newton also agreed that nobody else could confirm his claim that 
Deakin was asking for a murder, or that he even met Deakin at Aust 
Fenny - someting Deakin had always denied. 

He had not read the book called The Thorpe Committal, he had 
tried The Pencourt File but could only manage about a third of it. Mr 
Williams did not really get into his stride on his first day of cross- 
examination, and the court adjourned at rather an unfortunate 
moment for him. He brought up the matter of Newton’s balaclava 
helmet at Minehead. 

Williams: “Do you know what a buffoon is, Mr Newton?” 

Newton: “Yes, I think so.” 

Williams: “A buffoon would be someone who lacked moral sense?” 

Newton seemed uncertain on this point. I should have thought Mr 
Williams had got it wrong. This is no part of the definition of a 
buffoon. 

Williams: “Why did you wear that absurd hat at Minehead?” 

Newton: “I didn’t want to make the press’s job any easier.” 

Williams: “Do you agree that it was the action of a buffoon?” 

Newton: “No. One is entitled to wear what one wants. After all, I 
mean to say, you wear what is on your head.” 

This reference to his expensive horse-hair wig did not seem to 
please Mr Williams. The court adjourned for four days, until the 
following Tuesday. 


Day fifteen: 29 May 1979 

Newton's cross-examination resumed 

Mr Williams opened his second day of cross-examination with 
questions about a book which Newton was writing and for which he 
hoped to receive £50,000. Somewhere, Mr Williams had found a 
copy of its synopsis. It was apparently called The Autobiography of 
Andrew Gino Newton. He read extracts from the synopsis with 
considerable comic effect. 

“It begins with his own graphic account of the shooting . . . 
switches back to Andrew Newton’s life as a well-paid airline pilot 
living a glamorous bachelor existence . . . The proposal to be a hired 
killer, fascinating acquaintances, meetings with amazing characters, 
and plots ... all leading to the first meeting with Scott. 

“His own reactions begin to play an important part as the 
moment to put the gun to Scott’s head draws near .. . weeks in 


140 


THE LAST WORD 


which he was a hunted quarry by the police . . . After the shooting 
the conspirators tried to murder him ... his arrest, his trial and the 
beginning of the cover-up. His efforts to protect names of leading 
politicians . . . highly placed people in another attempt on his life 
. . . There will be evidence for the first time of a police conspiracy or 
a Mafia-type ‘code of silence.’ ” 

Williams: “Are you saying there is a police conspiracy, a cover-up 
like the Mafia, or were you saying it then?” 

Newton: “I am not saying it now. I had my suspicions at the time. 
We are all marionettes, you know. At that time I was certainly 
suspicious.” 

Newton explained the hyperbole of this synopsis by the fact that 
he had not seen it before, but insisted that at least one attempt on his 
life had been made. He seemed to have forgotten the American 
episode over the Bank Holiday weekend, but repeated that two 
men in a red Mini had nearly run him over in Bath Road, Chiswick, 
while he was awaiting trial. These were presumably the “highly 
placed people.” 

Williams: “The opportunity of making cash from your story will 
be limited if all or some of the accused on trial are acquitted.” 

Newton: “I realise that is a possibility.” 

The judge: “It would be a different book, wouldn’t it, unless you 
lost all your money in damages for libel?” 

Newton: “I think my lord is correct.” 

Watching Mr Justice Cantley chuckling and nodding to himself 
after this interruption , one began to receive the impression that if his 
lordship had any say in the matter there would be considerable 
difficulty over the publication of The Autobiography of Andrew 
Gino Newton. 

Newton denied that his need for cash was pressing, but agreed 
that he was living on the dole. He said he would consider offers from 
newspapers. If anyone came along and wanted to make an offer, he 
would listen. 

Newton: “I cannot say that someone with money could not 
influence me, but what other alternative have I?” 

Next Mr Williams took him through the Showman’s Dinner at 
Blackpool on the night of 26 February 1975 when, by his account, 
the murder proposal was first mentioned. A puritanical hiss began 
to appear in Mr Williams’s musical Welsh lilt when the excesses of 
the evening were mentioned. Sodom and Gomorrah had had 
nothing on Blackpool that night. 

Newton agreed that there had been topless women present. 




THE HIT MAN 


141 


Williams: “You were placing meringues on strategic places of 
these half-naked women?” 

Newton: “I do not recall that.” 

Newton could remember nothing of a fight with the boy-friend of 
one of these half-naked women, nor of being taken home dead 
drunk by Deakin. 

Newton: “I think you would probably agree it is a different world 
after sixteen pints.” 

But he vividly remembered his earlier conversation with Deakin, 
when Miller had been present. There was a table of Welshmen nearby. 

Williams: “Did they enter into the conversation?” 

Newton: “I put it to you, if you proposition someone to murder 
you don’t actually announce it on the tannoy.” 

He stuck to his story that he had approached Deakin with the 
words, “I understand you want someone bumped off, I am your 
man.” Mr Williams suggested a different exchange - that Miller had 
walked up and said, “Andrew’s the boy for that trouble of yours,” 
and Deakin had replied, “It’s not my bloody problem.” Newton 
denied this version. He said he was interested in whether it was a 
man, a woman or a child to be killed, but agreed he did not ask the 
identity of the person involved from Deakin. 

Williams: “I suggest the conversation about killing someone 
never happened.” 

Newton: “I expect you to say that, but it did.” 

Newton said the first time cash was discussed between himself 
and Deakin was during the meeting at Aust Service Station. Asked 
whether it had been discussed at the earlier meeting at Miller’s 
premises in Cardiff, he said he could not remember. 

Williams: “You could remember, or purport to remember, last 
Friday.” 

Newton: “’ell, I’m sorry, but I’m wrong then.” 

It was plain by this stage that Newton's memory was not of the best. 

Williams: “You are just making it up as you go along, aren’t you?” 

Newton: “No, I’m not.” 

The judge moved in to point out a discrepancy in Newton’s 
account of Deakin’s answer to his question about whether there had 
been a consortium involved. 

The judge: “Was the correct answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’?” 

Newton: “I have decided to say ‘Yes.’ ” 

Williams: “Why did you ask if it was a consortium involved?” 

Newton: “Because it sounded the sort of question a professional 
’it man would ask.” 


142 


THE LAST WORD 


Mr Williams was anxious to emphasise that his client’s only role 
had been to pass Newton to Holmes as a man prepared to frighten 
Scott out of blackmailing Holmes’s unnamed friend. 

Williams: “Where was the money to be paid?” 

Newton: “Presumably at some location on completion.” 

Williams: “I challenge that you even met Mr Deakin in Aust 
Service Station on any occasion.” 

Newton: “Well I did.” 

Next Mr Williams took him through the famous names and 
prominent people said to be involved. 

Williams: “I want you to look at this piece of paper. Without 
mentioning any names.” 

It was the dreaded pink piece of paper. Within moments Mr 
Carman was on his feet asking for the jury to withdraw while he 
discussed the terrible risk that a certain name would accidentally be 
mentioned. The jury obediently filed out. 

Most people in court were growing rather tired of these endless 
manoeuvres to prevent the name -possibly of Lord Snowdon-being 
mentioned in any context whatever, particularly as most of us knew 
perfectly well that nothing remotely incriminating or disreputable 
was alleged about him. But Mr Carman seemed to accept it as a badge 
of his client’s honour that this name should not be mentioned-as if 
Thorpe, in some heroic posture or other, would sooner go to the firing 
squad than let the name of a (former) member of the Royal Family be 
impugned - and the judge seemed to respond to this. He made a few 
more hurtful remarks about the press to the effect that if the King of 
Siam were mentioned, in no matter how innocent a context, his name 
would be splashed all over the newspapers next day. I played with the 
idea of running a spoof headline in Private Eye, “Thorpe Trial Judge 
Names King of Siam Shock Horror Sensation ”, but dismissed the 
plan. It was from this moment that I began to watch Mr Justice 
Cantley rather more closely. What had seemed a healthy scepticism, 
at the beginning of the trial, now began to seem alarmingly one-sided. 

Mr Williams promised to introduce no names, and Mr Taylor 
reassured the court yet again that he did not have the slightest 
intention of introducing the name. Harold Wilson, Lady Falkender, 
Reginald Maudling, Lord Goodman could be dragged through the 
mud, one understood, but not this mysterious person. The judge 
piously remarked that he could not rule out evidence just because 
he did not like the smell of the story. But it was plain that he 
intended to keep the cross-examination on a very tight rein. 

Mr Williams denied Newton’s story of a telephone call to Deakin 




THE HIT MAN 


143 


from Heathrow Airport, when Newton was on his way to the Far 
East after shooting Rinka. 

Williams: “I am suggesting that Deakin’s only involvement was 
to put you in touch with Holmes on an agreement to frighten, and 
that other than that Deakin had no part in this matter at all. That is 
right, is it not?” 

Newton: “No, it is not.” 

From the line taken by Mr Williams , it was reasonable to conclude 
that Deakin , as well as Holmes , would have pleaded guilty if the 
charge had merely been conspiracy to frighten. 

Something of the nature of Newton’s present relations with 
Miller could similarly be deduced from Newton’s answer to a later 
question. 

Newton: “Well, it surprises me that there are not five defendants 
in that box.” 


Mr Cowley's cross-examination 

Cowley: “Mr Newton, in evidence last week you said these words, if 
I may remind you, you said, T am not saying that Le Mesurier was 
privy to a conspiracy against Scott.’ ” 

Newton: “Yes I did.” 

Cowley: “I am going to spend the next quarter of an hour showing 
that that was a truthful and accurate observation.” 

Newton: “Thank you very much, sir.” 

Newton agreed he had never met nor heard of Le Mesurier until 
he met him fourteen months after the dog-shooting, when he 
received £5,000. Thereafter, the dialogue between Mr Cowley and 
Newton was largely made up of denials. Newton denied he had 
discussed the cover-up, and important people involved in it, with Le 
Mesurier. He denied he had mentioned Harold Wilson, Jeremy 
Thorpe, David Holmes, Peter Bessell, Lord Goodman, MI5. He 
denied that he had told Le Mesurier at any stage that the prosecu¬ 
tion was not allowing him to tell the whole story. 

The morning’s proceedings ended on this note of denial. Newton 
was in a denying mood. 

Newton: “I was not saying anything of the kind, let’s put the 
record straight.” 

In the afternoon, Newton agreed that on taped conversations 
between them, Le Mesurier had described himself as an innocent 
bystander in the case. Mr Cowley also seemed to favour the idea 
that there had been a conspiracy to frighten. 


144 


THE LAST WORD 


Mr Taylor's re-examination 

Re-examining, Mr Taylor returned to the question which Newton 
now admitted having asked the Evening News: “Supposing I was 
only sent money to put the frighteners on him, how would that 
sound?” Why, Mr Taylor asked, had Newton put that question? 

Those of us who had been attending closely already knew the 
answer - because Newton did not , at that stage , have immunity from 
prosecution and was nervous of letting himself in for a life sentence . 
But Newton was tired and confused and had forgotten the reason. Mr 
Taylor had to put the question three times, while Newton mumbled 
about how he was hoping to confuse the Evening News. The judge 
eventually put a stop to this repetition and put the same question 
himself. 

The reason he had introduced the suggestion of a conspiracy to 
frighten when the conspiracy had, in fact, been to murder, said 
Newton, was to confuse the Evening News for this reason: 

Newton: “I didn’t want to admit a conspiracy to murder because 
you wind up going in prison for life, that’s why. If I was to admit a lesser 
charge of just frightening, then I wouldn’t go to prison for life.” 

But his poor chicken-brain could not recall the vital word “immun¬ 
ity." Without further ado, Newton was dismissed. 

After Newton’s retirement, we heard the deposition of Dennis 
Meighan, who lent Newton the pistol. When Meighan asked what 
he wanted it for, Newton replied that it was to frighten a black¬ 
mailer. Later Newton telephoned to complain that the gun had 
jammed. 

Mr Peter Prescott, a firearms expert from the Home Office 
forensic science laboratory, said he had tested the pistol, and it was 
prone to jam. It had jammed four times when he tested it. 

Photographs of the pay-out, taken at the instance of Miller, were 
now exhibited. Presumably these were taken by the lady hanging 
out of the car and who had alarmed them so much. The court 
adjourned until the next day. 




8 

Miller’s Tale 


Day sixteen: 30 May 1979 

David Miller, the Cardiff screen printer, was not such a flamboyant 
witness as his former friend, Newton. He had great difficulty in 
speaking up. The judge advised him that he was entitled to refuse to 
answer any questions which he felt might incriminate him. Unlike 
Newton and Mr Bessell, Miller had no formal immunity from 
prosecution although, on Newton’s evidence, he was plainly a 
conspirator. This was his story: 

Miller was a business associate of Deakin and old friend of 
Newton, having been at the Chiswick Polytechnic with him. Some 
time in 1974, Deakin asked Miller if he knew anybody who would 
frighten somebody for money. He replied that he knew somebody 
“who would do anything for a laugh and a giggle.” 

At the Showman’s Dinner, in Blackpool, he introduced Newton 
to Deakin accordingly, and left them together. There was a great 
deal of drink at the dinner, with everyone being given a bottle of 
spirits - brandy or whisky. Newton became so drunk that Miller 
took him back to his flat, where Newton vomited. No more was said 
about the meeting with Deakin. This was 26 February 1975. Earlier 
we had heard that Deakin performed this act of charity, but nobody 
chose to make anything of the discrepancy . 

Miller returned to his business premises after midnight on the 
night of 24 October 1975 - the night of the dog-shooting - and 
found Newton there. He had a pistol which was jammed. Miller 
helped him clear it, and Newton fired a bullet into the wall. Next 
morning, Miller lent him some rags to clean up the back seat and 
floor of his car, which were covered in blood. 

Afterwards, Miller went on holiday with Newton and Newton’s 
girl-friend, Eleanor Rooney. At the airport, Miller heard Newton 
telephone Deakin, saying everything had gone wrong and he had 
ended up shooting the dog. He came back from abroad with Newton 
on 18 November 1975 and the police were waiting for them. 


146 


THE LAST WORD 


Towards the end of Newton’s prison sentence, he was telephoned 
by Deakin who said a gentleman wanted to see him to authenticate 
Newton’s handwriting on a letter addressed to Holmes. This was 
Barrie Penrose’s forgery, and it was Le Mesurier who brought it 
round. 

He taped the conversations he had with Le Mesurier, which were 
played to the court. Le Mesurier said that arrangements made with 
Newton still stood. They did not want any trouble with the press. 
This is what Le Mesurier said to him: 

“We want Andrew to know that ’cause if the press get hold of 
him and he starts blabbering ... the geezer involved in this is Lord 
Goodman, defending solicitor. 

“These writers already have had letters from Lord Goodman 
threatening them if they mention Holmes’s name, they’ll be sued for 
libel, criminal libel, fucking slander, not from some little solicitor 
tucked away in . . . this’ll be Lord Goodman’s office, so they ain’t 
playing with the boys. 

“You know they’ve got the money, the real money to go up, so if 
these two geezers who reckon they’re going to write this book start 
any nonsense with Holmes in it, he’ll hit on to three things, like 
Goldsmith just did, you know Private Eye , fucking closed Private 
Eye as you probably know. Well, the same thing applies here . . 

Miller told Le Mesurier that he would get a message to Newton in 
prison that the deal would be honoured, and Newton would receive 
his money. He assured Le Mesurier that Newton would keep quiet 
about it - “he loves money, Andrew, that’s his problem” - since he 
would not want to go back to prison for attempted murder. Le 
Mesurier said he had already been convicted of that, and Miller 
replied, “No he hasn’t. He’s been done for endangering life. He can 
be charged again. That’s why they done him for endangering life.” 

After Newton was released from prison in April 1977, Miller was 
not happy about taking him to the pay-off meeting as he was 
concerned for his own safety, but he was to be paid £100 for doing 
so - the money to be paid by overcharging £100 on a printing order. 
To protect himself, he arranged for Dabs detective agency, of 
Cardiff, to record the meeting. 

He collected Newton from the meeting and drove him to Cardiff 
Central station. On the way, Newton counted the money in his van. 
He met Le Mesurier again, who said that he was alarmed about the 
photographs taken at the pay-off meeting, in case Private Eye or a 
newspaper was involved. 

Miller spoke to Deakin in October 1977 and said he had some 






MILLER'S TALE 


147 


bad news. Articles had appeared in the London evening newspapers 
after a statement by Newton. Although Deakin’s name was not 
mentioned yet, Miller said that Newton was going to name 
everyone. His motive was money. Deakin said he was going to deny 
everything except that as far as he was concerned they just wanted 
somebody to frighten somebody. 

Miller told Deakin the newspapers were saying that the police 
intended to reopen enquiries, but suggested a lot of it was rubbish. 
Newton's account of the night on the moors was untrue, he said, 
because Newton hadn’t admitted that he pointed the gun at Scott’s 
head and it stuck. Deakin said: “I say, look, I knew very little about 
it, you know. They just wanted somebody to frighten somebody and 
I said it quite jokingly in a place in Blackpool . . . What went on 
afterwards I don’t know because that’s all I ever did and that was the 
end of it.” 

At the end of this conversation, Miller said that if it all came out 
the police would really go into it. 

Deakin replied: “There’s such a lot of high powers at the moment 
trying to hush it up still.” 

Miller answered: “Well, hopefully, yeah.” 

Cross-examined by Mr Mathew, for Holmes, Miller said he had 
never had any contact with Holmes in the matter. 

It was not a difficult task for Mr Williams, in cross-examination, 
to cast doubt on the evidence of both Newton and Miller. Although 
Miller never took advantage of the judge’s invitation to refuse to 
answer any question whose answer might tend to incriminate him, 
awareness that he had no immunity from prosecution seemed to 
have an unfortunate effect on his memory. When in doubt, he said 
he could not remember. Moreover, the fact that Newton’s evidence 
might have tended to incriminate him rather jaundiced his attitude 
to the former pilot. Mr Taylor’s task cannot have been made easier 
by having two of his witnesses at each other’s throats, and Mr 
Williams moved in to take advantage. 

Once again, Miller agreed that he had described Newton as an 
“habitual liar” and “chicken-brain.” Asked to amplify this, he 
agreed that Newton would sometimes tell a story which had a grain 
of truth inflated to make it more exciting. It was a lie when Newton 
said he had been promised £15,000 for the job. 

Mr Williams then took him through a police statement which 
Miller made before Newton’s trial in March 1976. From what Mr 
Williams read of the statement, it seemed to support Newton’s story 
- concocted for the benefit of the Exeter court - that he was being 


148 


THE LAST WORD 


blackmailed by Scott. Miller agreed that his statement was untrue, 
and that it was a serious business to make a false police statement. 

The statement said that Newton and Miller were both in the habit of 
answering advertisements in “contact” magazines promising sexual 
entertainment. As a result, they visited addresses throughout the 
country, sometimes together, sometimes separately. Miller had 
desisted from this practice several years earlier, but he knew 
Newton persisted in it. It was at this point that Miller’s evidence 
started to wobble. 

Williams: “Did you know at the time you made this statement 
that Mr Newton’s defence was to be that of blackmail by Mr Scott 
arising from these advertisements?” 

Miller: “No I did not... I only went to one party with Newton 
after an advertisement in one of those magazines.” 

The judge: “So there was therefore some truth in that part of the 
statement.” 

This admission may have been particularly interesting for journal¬ 
ists and lawyers following the case when , a few minutes later , Miller 
was listing the sums of money he received . He included the sum of 
£350 which he had received from the Daily Mirror after successfully 
suing them for libel in a story about his attendance at wife-swapping 
parties - “which was not true, ,f said Miller . 

Williams: “Had you been to a wife-swapping party?” 

Miller: “I went to one party with Newton.” 

Williams: “Was it a party of that sort?” 

Miller: “Yes.” 

Foreign journalists in court were puzzled by this . They were not 
familiar with the ancient British practice whereby the libel laws are 
slanted in such a way as to offer a secondary , tax-free income in most 
cases to any crook , coward , incompetent or voluptuary who man¬ 
ages to have his activities described in print outside the limited 
protection given to court reporting . 

The judge: “Is Contact magazine a respectable publication? I 
don’t know. I get the impression that there is something wrong with 
it.” 

Williams: “The reference to ‘contact’ magazines means a number 
of magazines. They are for people who wish to contact other people 
about sexual deviation.” 

Miller: “I would not put it like that. I would put it as a friendship 
club ... a lonely hearts club.” 

Williams: “I suggest they are nothing like lonely hearts clubs. 
Why did you make such false statements?” 





MILLER S TALE 


149 


Miller: “I did not want to say anything about the shot dog 
incident. I did not want to put myself in trouble or any danger/' 

The judge: “Did you think that if the police were wondering if 
you were involved in the dog incident, they might be put off the 
scent by being told you were visiting ‘lonely hearts’ in various parts 
of the country?” 

Miller: “Yes, my lord.” 

The judge had a pretty wit, but Miller was too easy game. He was as 
stupid as Newton, without any of Newton's panache, and unlike 
Newton, he was plainly frightened. He would probably have agreed 
to anything the judge put to him in a kindly or reasonable tone of 
voice, and was too stupid to realise the judge was laughing at him. 

Miller agreed with Mr Williams that Newton had told him he was 
being blackmailed over some modelling photographs for male 
magazines. This may have corrected an earlier wobble in his evi¬ 
dence about his reasons for making the false police statement, but 
it did not seem important. He said his expenses in Exeter for 
Newton’s trial had been paid by the Daily Mirror. 

He had taped telephone calls with Newton and later learned that 
Newton was taping telephone calls with him. He had received 
£8,000 for his story from the Sunday People and smaller sums from 
other newspapers and television companies. 

Williams: “At Minehead committal proceedings, did you say you 
had instructed solicitors to offer the money to a blind school?” 

Miller: “Yes, but I have since kept the money.” 

Miller said he regarded the money, which was about double his 
business profit for 1975, as compensation for time off work, loss of 
business and being pestered by the press. The trial adjourned after 
Miller had promised to produce his Sunday People contract next 
day. 


Day seventeen: 31 May 1979 

Miller's cross-examination continued 

The last stage of Mr Williams’s cross-examination concentrated on 
Miller’s reasons for making tapes, taking photographs and trying to 
get other people to incriminate themselves. Mr Williams main¬ 
tained the reason was money, Miller that it was self-protection; as 
soon as his story had been published in the Sunday People , he felt 
safer. 

Mr Cowley, for Le Mesurier, covered the same ground. 
Cowley: “In the whole of these tapes* you were putting false 


150 


THE LAST WORD 


matters in order to try to persuade Mr Le Mesurier either to 
incriminate himself or incriminate some other person?” 

Miller: “That is correct.” 

Miller rejected Mr Cowley’s suggestion that Le Mesurier had 
been no more than a contact man. 

Minor witnesses and depositions 

Mr Terence Gibbs won a large sum from Vernons Football Pools in 
May 1975. Vernons introduced him to Holmes as a financial 
adviser. On Holmes’s advice, he invested £10,000 in Le Mesurier’s 
carpet shop, later becoming a partner. He said it was quite evident 
to him that Holmes and Le Mesurier knew each other well. In 
November 1977 Le Mesurier told him he was worried about his 
involvement in the Newton affair and thought he would have to go 
to prison, although he said the stories were not true. 

Mr Colin Lambert, a carpet salesman, was a former employee of 
Le Mesurier. Holmes was business consultant and adviser to the 
company. In 1977, after press publicity, he asked Le Mesurier 
whether he had paid Newton the £5,000. Le Mesurier replied, 
“Yes, I did,” and added that Holmes thought they were going to 
prison. 

On another occasion, Le Mesurier had said something to the 
effect that, “we should have hired someone like you, because the 
chap who went to do the shooting was an idiot.” He did not elab¬ 
orate whom he meant by “we.” Mr Lambert explained the “some¬ 
one like you” by pointing out that he had been a regular soldier in 
the infantry for nearly seventeen years - something which Le 
Mesurier knew well. 

In cross-examination, Mr Cowley suggested that he had been 
sacked by Le Mesurier for claiming more commission on carpet 
sales than he was entitled to. Mr Lambert denied this hotly, and 
turned to the judge for protection. 

Lambert: “I am being accused of being a crook here.” 

The judge: “It is the defence counsel’s job to put questions of that 
sort. It is not very nice.” 

After conferring with the judge, Mr Cowley put no further 
questions. 



9 

First Tale of Mr Jeremy Thorpe 


The next witness was Chief Superintendent Proven Sharpe, of the 
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, the man who had conducted the 
first enquiry into Scott’s allegations after the dog-shooting incident. 
He had been requested to hold an enquiry by the Director of Public 
Prosecutions early in 1976, and interviewed Thorpe at his Devon 
home on 8 February 1976. Among other Crown witnesses, Mr 
Bessell had already expressed the opinion that Mr Sharpe’s enquiry 
was not pursued with much vigour. 

Mr Sharpe’s brief at that time had been to pursue three lines of 
enquiry: to find out whether there was any evidence to connect 
Newton with Thorpe or his associates; to investigate the circum¬ 
stances under which the sum of £2,500 had been paid to Norman 
Scott; and to see if there was any evidence to support Newton’s 
allegations of blackmail against Scott. 

Thorpe agreed to make a statement which Mr Macreery wrote 
down. On hearing it read back to him, Thorpe had many corrections 
and alterations to make. This was the final draft of the statement 
which Thorpe signed next day: 

I am the Member of Parliament for the North Devon 
constituency. I am in the process of drafting a comprehensive 
statement relating to my knowledge of Mr Norman Josiffe, 
otherwise known as Norman Scott, which, subject to the advice 
of my legal advisers, I would have no objection to supplying to 
those investigating this case. At this stage I have been interviewed 
on three specific points. 

First, Mr Michael Barnes, solicitor, of The Square, Barnstaple. 
Mr Barnes has acted for me on a variety of business matters 
connected with my affairs in North Devon, in particular the 
purchase of my present house, the negotiation of a mortgage, the 
purchase of land belonging to my neighbours, and a number of 
other matters. 


152 


THE LAST WORD 


With regard to the Scott affair, to the best of my knowledge and 
belief, the only instruction which I gave to Mr Barnes was to 
warn my then Conservative opponent, Mr Keigwin, in either the 
1970 or 1974 elections, that were the Scott matter to be raised, I 
would unquestionably issue a writ for defamation. 

Apart from this, I have no recollection of giving Mr Barnes any 
further instructions on any matter relating to this. I have been 
asked whether I would object to Mr Barnes disclosing informa¬ 
tion which came to him in the course of his professional activities 
which could in any way be construed to affect or involve myself 
and Scott. 

While this is obviously a matter for him to determine, speaking 
for myself I would have no conceivable objection. 

Secondly, I have been asked for information I can produce 
relating to the alleged payment of £2,500 in respect of certain 
letters and/or documents. 

Of this particular transaction I have no knowledge whatsoever. 
However, I do believe that Dr Gleadle made contact with Mr 
(now Lord) Banks around December 1973, or January 1974, 
indicating he. Dr Gleadle, was in possession of documents, which 
could be embarrassing for the Liberal Party and which the Liberal 
Party might wish to possess. 

Lord Banks consulted Lord Wade. Lord Wade, at my sugges¬ 
tion, consulted the Liberal leader in the Lords, Lord Byers, who 
closely questioned Lord Banks as to whether Gleadle’s sugges¬ 
tion was that either the documents be handed over, or bought. 

On this point Lord Banks was uncertain. At a later date, which 
can be confirmed by consulting my office engagements diary, I was 
visited by the Rector of North Molton, who asked me whether I 
knew of a Norman Scott who was making serious allegations 
against me. 

He alluded to the fact that there existed correspondence which 
could prove embarrassing either to me, Mr Peter Bessell, the 
Liberal Party, or all three. He also suggested that the Liberal 
Party might like to “set up” this young man financially and 
indicated that he felt that Scott's over-riding purpose was to 
destroy me. 

He mentioned that he and Dr Gleadle, both of whom had 
been treating Scott over a period of time, were anxious to form 
a trust to set him up in some form of business, such as a riding 
establishment. 

I concede that this conversation could be construed as a 






FIRST TALE OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


153 


veiled attempt at blackmail but knowing that Pennington’s (the 
rector s) motive was to try to help Scott, to whom he administered 
both as a priest and as a member of the Samaritans, I did not so 
interpret it, although I robustly rejected the suggestion that I or 
any of my colleagues should be involved in these “good works.” 

I replied that I was certain that neither the Liberal Party nor 
myself nor Mr Bessell would have any interest in so assisting. I 
also indicated that I should be surprised if the documents to which 
he alluded differed materially from those which my colleagues 
had examined in 1971, to which I had immediate access to photo¬ 
stat and further photostats of which I believed were already in the 
possession of certain newspapers, none of which occasioned me 
concern. 

I have not spoken to the vicar since. I should add that I have 
never seen Dr Gleadle, never corresponded with him, never 
spoken to him on the telephone nor had any communication with 
him, direct or indirect. 

The third and final point relates to the reported incident of the 
dog on Exmoor on 24 October 1975. I have never met the 
accused, Mr Newton, I have never seen him, direct or indirect. In 
respect of this incident I again know no more than I have read in 
the press. 

Mr Sharpe explained that he had never received the comprehen¬ 
sive statement promised. When he telephoned Thorpe to ask about 
it, Thorpe said that his legal adviser, Lord Goodman, was ill. 

In reply to Mr Carman’s cross-examination, Mr Sharpe agreed 
that Thorpe had volunteered this statement without his solicitor 
being present. 

Mr Carman now moved into a very dangerous area. His instruc¬ 
tions were that Thorpe had expressly asked the then Metropolitan 
Police Commissioner, Sir John Waldron, and the Home Secretary, 
Mr Reginald Maudling, to investigate Scott’s allegations. Mr 
Sharpe replied that he knew nothing about that. 

Carman (sarcastically): “Is it within police capacity to find out if 
what Mr Thorpe was saying is accurate?” 

Sharpe: “I am sure it can be done. If you wish, I will see that it is 
done.” 

Finally, Mr Sharpe agreed that Thorpe had been polite, helpful 
arid willing to provide a statement. But it was Mr Carman's insist¬ 
ence that Thorpe had asked the Police Commissioner and Home 
Secretary to investigate Scott's charges which was to prove Mr 


154 


THE LAST WORD 


Carman's greatest humiliation. Later , he was to have to withdraw the 
suggestion. Thorpe had made no such request. Yet Thorpe's solicitors 
had plainly briefed him in the strongest terms that the request had been 
made. It was a curious episode. Perhaps Thorpe had succeeded in 
convincing himself that this was the case. Perhaps it was simply a 
gamble that did not pay off. As Thorpe declined to give evidence, we 
shall probably never know. 

This was not revealed until Chief Superintendent Challes gave 
evidence, five days later. While it might seem to upset the continuity of 
the trial narrative to anticipate his evidence , I suspect that it had 
already been upset by the speed of the trial. It seems probable that Mr 
Taylor intended to call the police witnesses all together, as he did at 
Minehead, but the pace of events meant that Mr Jack Hayward , the 
Bahamas-based millionaire , was not available. Mr Sharpe may have 
been speaking out of turn, but the five-day interlude gave Chief 
Superintendent Challes all the time he needed to make the fullest 
possible investigation into Thorpe's claims -something that happens 
all too rarely when the defence springs something on the Crown. 

Finally, Chief Inspector Brian MacCreery, also of the Devon and 
Cornwall Constabulary, gave evidence of having been present at an 
interview between Holmes and Mr Sharpe at the Reform Club. 
Most of the press had left the court by this stage , regarding MacCreery 
as a very minor witness - he was examined by Mr Bull, rather than by 
Mr Taylor. But this was the first I had ever heard of an interview 
between Holmes and the police at which Holmes had said anything 
much besides “No comment .'' The date of this interview was not 
given, but presumably it was in early 1976. It would be interesting to 
know whether it came before or after Holmes's admission to the press 
on 5 March 1976 that he had paid £2 y 500 to Scott for the Bessell 
letters. 

At this interview, Holmes agreed he was a personal friend of 
Thorpe but said he had never met Norman Scott. He said he had no 
connection, directly or indirectly with Newton. He described the 
circumstances of his arranging for Dr Gleadle to buy the letters 
from Scott for £2,500, suggested that the money was a personal 
payment and said that he had not discussed it with Thorpe. On this 
occasion, Holmes averred that he was concerned for the safety of 
Thorpe’s son, Rupert, to whom he was godfather. He said he took 
the letters to Barnes, Thorpe’s solicitor, and they burned them - “a 
most expensive bonfire.” 

Since the witnesses were running ahead of time, the trial was 
adjourned until the following Monday, 4 June. 



10 

Two Nice Respectable Witnesses 


Hayward and Dins haw 

Day eighteen: 4 June 1979 

Mr Jack Arnold Hayward was a fairly well-known figure in Britain 
before he took his stand in the witness-box. A millionaire based in 
the Bahamas, his extreme patriotism had earned him the nick-name 
“Union Jack” Hayward. The large engineering fortune he inherited 
from his father, Sir Charles Hayward, had been much increased by 
development in Freeport, Bahamas. At one time he had been 
involved in complicated negotiations with Bessell, Thorpe and 
others to sell his interest in Freeport, but the details of these 
negotiations did not come out in court. They are set out in the 
excellent book, Jeremy Thorpe , A Secret Life , by three Sunday 
Times journalists, Lewis Chester, Magnus Linklater and David 
May. No attempt was made in court to impugn Mr Hayward’s 
reputation as a straightforward philanthropist. 

This is the story Mr Hayward told: 

In 1969, Thorpe was among three West Country MPs sponsoring 
an appeal to save Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel from 
development by foreign buyers. Mr Hayward interested himself in 
the appeal, and eventually bought the island for the nation, paying 
£150,000. He became friendly with Thorpe, and next year made a 
gift of £150,000 to the Liberal Party, although not a Liberal himself. 
In a letter accompanying the cheque, he spoke of their “joint 
ambition to see you as Prime Minister in five years’ time.” 

In April 1974, he received a letter from Thorpe thanking him for 
a further present of £50,000 and asking him for yet another gift of 
the same sum, to be paid in two separate cheques. One for £10,000 
was to go to Mr Nadir Dinshaw, in Jersey, who would use it to settle 
additional election expenses incurred by Thorpe personally during 
the February 1974 election. Mr Dinshaw, he said, was godfather to 
his son, Rupert. 

Accordingly, Mr Hayward did so. Sprinkled throughout the 


156 


THE LAST WORD 


correspondence at this time are references to Mr Bessell’s dealings 
with Hayward - he had failed to repay various loans - couched in 
terms of the greatest revulsion, such as “that bastard Bessell.” 

On 5 March 1975, Thorpe wrote again asking for a further 
£10,000 to be paid to Mr Dinshaw. His explanation was that the 
requirements of the Representation of the People Act made this 
advisable. Once again, Thorpe volunteered the information that Mr 
Dinshaw was Rupert’s godfather. 

Mr Hayward agreed to do so, but took a little time over it. Several 
nudging letters were received from Thorpe. On 13 September 
1975, Thorpe wrote: 

When you can manage the second tranche this would be very 
welcome. On the strength of your generous promise my Jersey 
friend has actually advanced the sum to pay off the outstanding 
election expenses and therefore the payment to the accountant 
will go straight to him. He’s not rushed, but it would be a great 
thing for me if I could feel that all outstanding election expenses 
were settled and debts cleared. 

On 4 April 1978 he met Thorpe at Thorpe’s request, and Thorpe 
suggested he should put pressure on Mr Bessell by threatening him 
that if he came to England, Mr Hayward would serve a writ for 
bankruptcy on him. Thorpe had a theory that if he was made 
bankrupt, Bessell would not be able to re-enter the United States, 
where he had a fiancee. Mr Hayward declined to do this. 

On 20 April 1978, Mr Hayward wrote to Thorpe: 

I am the last one to shirk a fight or desert my friends, but I do 
like to know who I am fighting, what it is all about and who my 
friends are. I am rapidly getting the impression that my friends 
have not told me the truth and it is also becoming apparent to me 
that I am being set up as a fall guy and a sucker of the first degree. 

All I have done (and God! how I regret it!) was to help the 
Liberal Party and various Liberals, despite the fact that I am not a 
member of the party and never was and disagree intensely with a 
lot of their policies. 

I feel a number of innocent people, including myself, have been 
or are being implicated in these Liberal machinations and I think 
it is time it stopped and the principals involved came clean. 

On 4 May 1978 Mr Hayward wrote again, saying he had received 
a visit from Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Challes. Mr 
Challes was asking about these two payments of £10,000. He had 




TWO NICE RESPECTABLE WITNESSES 


157 


forgotten all about them, except that he had loaned them to Thorpe 
personally during 1974. “Who on earth is Dinshaw?” he asked. 

On 14 August Mr Hayward wrote again, complaining that 
through no fault of his own he had been dragged into the Norman 
Scott case -“and 1 do not like it one bit. I have always been proud of 
my good name and integrity.” He asked Thorpe how the two sums 
of £10,000 were spent, and repeated the question in another letter 
of 31 August 1978 (after Thorpe had been arrested) asking Thorpe 
to treat the matter as urgent, but had never received an answer and 
still did not know how the money was spent. In a telephone conver¬ 
sation when he asked what was happening, Thorpe replied “pre¬ 
sumably Dinshaw had panicked,” but Mr Hayward never knew 
what he meant by this. 

Mr Hayward cross-examined 

If Mr Hayward looked worried when Mr Carman rose to cross- 
examine, the first question seemed to put him at his ease. His 
manner when speaking about Thorpe in answer to Mr Taylor’s 
questions had been puzzled and a little resentful. After Mr 
Carman’s first question, it became noticeably warmer. 

Carman: “So many names have been bandied about this court I 
want to make it perfectly clear on behalf of Mr Thorpe that there is 
no suggestion you have been guilty of any kind of financial or 
commercial impropriety.” 

Hayward: “Thank you very much, and thank Mr Thorpe.” 

Mr Hayward said he had formed a very high opinion of Thorpe 
over the Lundy Island negotiations, and regarded him as a politician 
of dedication and enthusiasm. 

Later he met Mr Bessell, to whom he had lent £25,000 which had 
not been repaid. He had also guaranteed a £10,000 overdraft, and 
the guarantee was called in. 

In May 1976 he had found himself pestered by press and tele¬ 
vision who were trying to discover if he was involved in the Scott 
affair. He had referred to the two sums of £10,000 as loans, but he 
remembered later that they had been gifts towards Thorpe’s elec¬ 
tion expenses. He repeated that he had never received any explana¬ 
tion of how this money had been spent - from Thorpe, from his 
solicitors or in any other way. 

Mr Nadir Dinshaw 

The next witness, Mr Nadir Dinshaw, was called. 

Mr Dinshaw, a Karachi-born businessman, based in Jersey, first 


158 


THE LAST WORD 


met Thorpe on a London Airport bus in 1969, and shortly after¬ 
wards was asked to be godfather to Thorpe’s son, Rupert. He had 
been a British national for twenty years and spoke beautiful, edu¬ 
cated English. Nobody could doubt that he was a very respectable 
witness indeed. This is the story he had to tell: 

Shortly after the February 1974 election, Thorpe telephoned him 
and said: “Jack Hayward wants to give me £10,000 for my election 
expenses - will you take it and hand it over to David Holmes?” Mr 
Dinshaw agreed to do so provided there was no publicity, which he 
did not like. He had met Holmes at the Memorial Service for 
Caroline Thorpe in July 1970. After he had done so, Thorpe tele¬ 
phoned him again and asked if he would do the same with another 
£10,000 from Mr Hayward, and asked him to keep it confidential. 
This time Mr Dinshaw felt uneasy, and told Holmes that he was 
displeased, but Holmes assured him there was no question of public¬ 
ity. Holmes asked for payment in cash this time, so Mr Dinshaw 
paid it in small parcels of about £600 a time. He made the payments 
personally except once, on the last occasion, when he made it 
through his lawyer. There was some delay about receiving the 
money from Mr Hayward. 

Then in March 1976 Mr Dinshaw and his wife were watching 
television and learned that Holmes had paid £2,500 to Norman Scott for 
some letters. When he tackled Holmes on the matter, Holmes denied 
that there was any connection between the payments. 

Shortly after Thorpe’s press conference of 27 October 1977, in 
which he again publicly denied allegations of a homosexual liaison 
with Scott, Mr Dinshaw had lunch with Thorpe at Boulestin’s 
restaurant in Covent Garden. Thorpe said to him: “That money of 
Jack Hayward’s - what did you do with it?” 

“I gave it to David Holmes, of course,” said Mr Dinshaw. 

“Why?” said Thorpe. 

“Because you told me to,” said Mr Dinshaw. 

Thorpe said, “You could say you’d given it him yourself.” 

Mr Dinshaw said, “How can I say I’ve given it him myself - I 
haven’t given it him. My accounts will show it in any case.” 

Thorpe said, “They won’t look into your accounts.” 

Mr Dinshaw assumed that “they” were the police, and said, “Of 
course they can, they can look into anybody’s account.” 

Thorpe said, “Only in criminal matters.” 

“This is a criminal matter,” said Mr Dinshaw. 

“You could say you received it from Jack Hayward as part of a 
business deal,” said Thorpe. 



TWO NICE RESPECTABLE WITNESSES 


159 


Mr Dinshaw asked how on earth he could say a thing like that 
when he had had no business dealings with Mr Hayward and would 
not recognise him if he walked into the room, although he thought 
he might have met Mr Hayward at the Caroline Thorpe Memorial 
Service. Thorpe was distressed by his refusal and Mr Dinshaw felt 
very sorry for him. 

Thorpe said it was very awkward for him as Holmes had asked for 
some of the money and had been allowed to keep £5,000. Mr Dinshaw 
told him that he must tell the truth, becase Mr Dinshaw was certain 
Thorpe was not involved in any kind of criminal conspiracy. 

In the course of a long conversation which was painful for both of 
them, Thorpe suggested it could be very awkward for Mr Dinshaw if 
he had to explain in court why he had paid the money in cash, 
particularly with his dislike of publicity. Mr Dinshaw replied it 
would be something he would simply have to bear. 

On 18 April 1978 Thorpe took him for a drive in St James’s Park. 
By now, Mr Dinshaw assumed that the police would be coming to 
see him, and told Thorpe that he intended to tell them the truth. 
Thorpe replied that if only he could find £20,000 he could say it was 
the Hayward money. 

Mr Dinshaw said, “Don’t be absurd. I gave the money to David 
Holmes in 1974 and 1975. How can you now say this is that money?” 

Thorpe said it would be very awkward - not because he was 
involved in any conspiracy, which he wasn’t, but because of his 
political career. He was not worried about any conspiracy. He did 
not know what had happened to the £20,000. Mr Dinshaw said, 
“None of it?” Thorpe said, “No.” 

Mr Dinshaw urged him to see his lawyer and tell him the truth. 
Thorpe said he quite appreciated Mr Dinshaw’s position that he 
must tell the truth, but there was no need for Mr Dinshaw to say 
more than was necessary -“it will be curtains for me and you will be 
asked to move on.” 

Mr Dinshaw considered this a stupid and crude remark. He could 
not take it seriously, but found it hurtful. He was sorry for Thorpe 
that he should be frightened enough to make such a remark, but also 
irritated that Thorpe should think him stupid enough to be 
influenced by it. By “moving on” Thorpe had meant he would be 
asked to leave Britain. It was a ludicrous conversation which made 
Mr Dinshaw “very, very sad, both for myself and for him.” 

Mr Dinshaw cross-examined 

Under cross-examination by Mr Mathew, Mr Dinshaw agreed that 


160 


THE LAST WORD 


Holmes had paid £2,500 for the letters in February 1974, some time 
before the arrival of Mr Hayward’s first £10,000. He had not 
understood that the payments to Holmes were a loan, but they 
might have been. 

Mr Carman once again started his cross-examination with an 
encomium. 

Carman: “ May I make it absolutely plain publicly on behalf of Mr 
Thorpe that there is no suggestion of any kind of impropriety by 
you?” 

Mr Dinshaw promptly agreed with counsel that he had always 
found Thorpe to be a generous, kind and warm-hearted man who 
was a dedicated and enthusiastic politician. Politics was his life and 
he breathed it. The thought of losing his political career meant the 
loss of everything that was valuable to him. This was the dominant 
theme of his conversation; whenever the question of criminal 
charges was raised, Thorpe had brushed it aside in irritation. 

Dinshaw: “Mr Thorpe has many virtues, but an ability to control 
his feelings is not one of them.” 

The trial was adjourned until next day. Mr Carman suggested that 
the prosecution evidence would be finished by noon, after which he 
proposed to raise some legal points. V/e all rather groaned at this, 
fearing a repetition of the first two days, when Mr Carman had wasted 
hours pleading that the evidence of the three chief Crown witnesses 
should be disallowed. At this stage, we were still keenly looking 
forward to the evidence of the four defendants, especially Holmes 
and Thorpe. It seemed that they had many questions to answer, and 
there was speculation about what they would say. 

As it turned out, the last witness - Chief Superintendent Challes - 
lasted all the following day and well into the day after. His evidence 
was to produce what can only be described as a humiliation for Mr 
Carman which , in the hands of a more unscrupulous prosecutor than 
Mr Taylor, might have been deployed in powerful support of the 
Crown argument that Thorpe was a liar . 



11 

Further Tales of Mr Jeremy Thorpe 


Day nineteen: 5 June 1979 

After written evidence of an unchallenged, corroborative nature, 
mostly about the movement of Mr Hayward’s £20,000 towards 
Holmes - the judge advised jurors not to write these things down, as 
they would be muddled by too much detail - two further unsworn 
statements by Thorpe were read. The first was published on the 
front page of the Sunday Times under the main headline: “The Lies 
of Norman Scott - by Jeremy Thorpe.” It appeared on 14 March 
1976, two days before Newton’s trial opened in Exeter. The second 
was his statement to a press conference at the National Liberal Club 
on 27 October 1977. 

Much had been said - and was still to be said - about the press role 
in investigating Scott’s allegations and offering money to potential 
witnesses. Very little was ever said about the press’s role in keeping 
the whole matter quiet. Yet it is a fact that for the five years up to the 
dog-shooting, there had been no mention of Scott’s allegations in 
any national newspaper, despite strenuous efforts by Scott and the 
journalist Gordon Winter to get them printed. Strong support for 
Thorpe was to come from the Sunday Mirror in its famous leader of 
16 May 1976, just after Thorpe’s resignation: “After he heard the 
news of Mr Thorpe’s resignation, Mr Scott told reporters that he 
was so upset he had been sick. It is all decent people in Britain who 
are sick, Mr Scott. Sick at your behaviour. Ugh!” 

Rather tough words, one might think, on a man who had been 
frightened out of his wits by a gunman who seemed determined to 
murder him. But by far the most conspicuous among newspapers 
who, wittingly or unwittingly, joined the cover-up - no doubt 
for the best motives - was the Sunday Times. For that reason, 
and for various others, I give Thorpe’s Sunday Times article in 
full: 


162 


THE LAST WORD 


The Lies of Norman Scott - by Jeremy Thorpe. 

When Norman Scott made his outburst in court I issued a brief 
statement that I had not seen him for twelve years and that the 
allegations were baseless. I would have hoped that that assurance 
would have sufficed, but I am advised that a further refutation in 
the most categorical and unqualified terms is necessary. 

Mr Scott has made the following allegations against me: 

(a) the existence of a homosexual relationship with me; 

(b) that I stole his national insurance card; 

(c) that the Liberal Party. Lord Byers and others have made him 
from time to time subventions to keep him quiet; 

(d) that in the incident of the shot dog, my wife or I had hired a 
gunman at a five figure sum to kill the dog, or Scott, or both, 
towards the cost of which the government had contributed; 

(e) that the identity of the gunman was variously> my helicopter 
pilot, or a Liberal worker in the Devon and Cornwall region. 

(f) In addition, it is alleged that I was acquainted with or 
involved in a correspondence between Scott and Bessell and 
that I knew, or was involved, in the purchase of the Bessell 
letters from Scott for a sum of £2,500. 

All these allegations are totally false. Scott’s allegations were 
investigated - with police assistance - by senior colleagues in the 
Liberal Party in 1971, when his cross-examination culminated in 
his flight from the room in an hysterical outburst. My colleagues 
regarded the allegations as pure moonshine. 

They had at that time the correspondence between Bessell and 
Scott, and have retained copies, and so the suggestion that I 
would have sought the purchase of the letters for £2,500 is 
particularly idiotic, since I also knew that the national press had 
copies of them. 

The whole of this tissue of elaborately woven mendacity and 
malice is based on no more than the fact that I had met Scott in 
November, 1961, when he called at the House of Commons and 
sent in a card, the normal approach to an MP, mentioning the 
name of a man whom I held in high esteem. 

He was in a state of great distress, since he asserted plausibly 
that he was being accused of a crime, the theft of a horse, that he 
was penniless and the victim of other misfortunes. My sympathy 
was indeed enlisted and I did help him to find a job. 

Scott approached me intermittently from time to time there- 


FURTHER TALES OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


163 


after for further assistance. I introduced him to a few people, 
particularly to my own mother, who on two occasions put him up 
for the night. Subsequently I discovered that he was an incorrig¬ 
ible liar - that he invented a story of an aircrash and the death of 
his father in South America - a gentleman then living peaceably 
in Kent - and several other pieces of fiction, as a result of which I 
refused to help him further. 

I am informed that I am not the only victim of Scott’s accusa¬ 
tions - of a similar nature - which have been directed against 
other public figures. 

I hope that this statement will now spare me and my family 
further harassment and enable me to give my proper attention to 
the affairs of the Liberal Party and the country. 

By the time of the press conference on 27 October 1977, 
Thorpe’s emphasis had shifted on a few points. Where before he 
had hoped to be left alone, he now said he was pleased that 
Newton’s allegations were to be investigated by the police. Where 
before he had spoken of intermittent approaches, he now talked 
of “a close and even affectionate friendship” which developed, 
while still insisting that “no sexual activity of any kind took 
place.” 

Where earlier he had said it was “totally false” to suggest that he 
had been “acquainted with or involved in a correspondence be¬ 
tween Scott and Bessell,” he now admitted that he had asked 
Bessell to help out with the Scott problem, while denying that this 
amounted to a cover-up. 

After repeating the familiar litany of denials, his statement ended 
with a plea for sympathy, even a bid for admiration, which may give 
us a clue to his attitude if he had decided to give evidence in his own 
defence: 

“It would be insane to pretend that the re-emergence of this story 
has not placed an almost intolerable strain on my wife, my family, 
and on me. Only their steadfast loyalty and the support of many 
friends known and unknown from all over the country has 
strengthened my resolve and determination to meet this challenge. 

“Consequently I have no intention of resigning (his seat in 
Parliament) nor have I received a single request to do so from my 
constituency association.” 

Thorpe’s second and final police statement, given to Mr Challes 
on 3 June 1978 will be found in full on page 165, where it is 
produced as part of Mr Challes’s evidence. 


164 


THE LAST WORD 


Mr Challes’s evidence 

Detective Chief Superintendent Challes was deputy head of the 
Somerset and Avon CID at the time of the dog-shooting, which 
took place just four hundred yards within his territory. At that time, 
he was put in charge of investigations into the actual shooting, while 
the background to Scott’s allegations was investigated by his oppo¬ 
site number in Devon, Mr Proven Sharpe. Mr Challes took over the 
whole investigation in 1977 when Newton was released from prison. 

A quiet, imperturbable man whose voice carried the faintest trace 
of a Somerset burr, Mr Challes was plainly a dutiful officer whose 
greatest concern from the very beginning of the case was to play it 
by the rules. It had been an unprecedented investigation with politi¬ 
cal undertones which made it unique in British criminal history, but 
nothing seemed to have worried Mr Challes, whose singleminded 
determination and quiet perseverance was more responsible than 
anything else for collecting enough evidence to convince the 
Director of Public Prosecutions that the defendants should be 
charged. Like all the best policemen, he exuded a quiet confidence 
that truth and justice would emerge from a fair assessment of the 
facts as he presented them. We shall probably never know what he 
thought of Mr Justice Cantley’s treatment of his evidence, which 
had been so meticulously collected over four years. 

The first of many documents produced by Mr Challes was a copy 
of Deakin’s statement to the police. Deakin said that Le Mesurier 
had introduced him to Holmes. They told him that an unnamed 
friend of Holmes was being blackmailed and asked him if he knew 
anyone who could “go along and frighten the chap off.” Deakin 
could think of nobody at that time, but in February 1975 he met 
David Miller, the Cardiff printer, who introduced him to Newton. 
Deakin decided Newton was the man. When Newton telephoned 
him later, he supplied Holmes’s telephone number in Manchester. 
In a later statement, Deakin denied meeting Newton at a motorway 
services station near Bristol, and denied handing him documents. 

Mr Challes went to California to see Mr Bessell and collected 
various letters from him in March 1978. Next he went to see Holmes 
at his flat in Eaton Place on 3 April, but Holmes answered “No 
comment” to all questions of substance put to him, and later handed 
him a statement substituting “No comment” for most of the few 
questions he had earlier answered. 

Mr Challes and Mr Taylor here embarked on a little charade 
which had proved a very popular turn at Minehead, with Mr Challes 
reading his questions and Mr Taylor reading Holmes’s reply - 



FURTHER TALES OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


165 


nearly always “No comment.” On this occasion, however, the judge 
did not seem to like the impression being created, and interrupted. 

The judge: “No comment means I do not wish to say anything. It 
would be quite wrong to interpret the fact that he exercised his 
option not to answer as an admission.” 

This interruption, which was later to prove a major refrain of the 
judge’s summing up, rather took the wind out of Mr Taylor’s sails. 
He skipped about five pages of “No comments” from Holmes. 

When asked whether he wanted to say anything about the 
£20,000 he had received from Mr Dinshaw, Holmes replied he did 
not. 

Mr Challes then produced Thorpe’s statement on 3 June 1978.1 
give it here in full: 

I have been informed by my solictors that it has been indicated 
that the current investigation covers three main areas. The first is 
whether I had ever been involved in a homosexual relationship 
with Norman Josiffe, also known as Norman Scott, which might 
form a motive or a wish on my part to eliminate him, cause him 
injury, or put him in fear. 

The second is whether I had been a party to any conspiracy to 
kill or injure him or put him in fear. The third, whether I had paid 
or authorised any payment to one Newton, or any other person, 
pursuant to or following upon, any such conspiracy, or to Scott in 
respect of the purchase of certain documents or otherwise. 

In October 1977,1 made a statement to the press. I now wish to 
reiterate and confirm as accurate what I said in that statement, 
save as to certain minor details which are dealt with in the body of 
this statement and also to add the following: 

As to the first allegation, I wish, with all the emphasis I can 
command to deny that I was at any time engaged in any homo¬ 
sexual relationships with Scott or that I was at any time a party to 
any homosexual familiarity with him. 

I described in my earlier statement, and have here confirmed, 
the circumstances under which I met Scott. I believed that he was 
a person who was desperately in need of help and support, in that 
he was in a suicidal and unbalanced state. 

The action which, in the circumstances, I followed was 
attributable solely to what I saw as my duty, having regard to the 
conditions under which he approached me; in the event my 
compassion and kindness towards him was in due course repaid 
with malevolence and resentment. 


166 


THE LAST WORD 


Although he never so informed me, I formed the opinion at an 
early stage on the limited number of occasions I was in his 
presence, that he was a homosexual and he was becoming too 
dependent upon me. 

Accordingly, I made immediate arrangements for him to be 
accepted into a family near Tiverton with whom he was to spend 
Christmas, having explained to them the reasons why I believed 
he was in need of help. 

However, after only a few weeks in their house they decided his 
highly neurotic and unbalanced state was too disturbing an 
influence in the house and he was asked to leave. 

At about January 1962, Scott was still in an unsettled state and 
in need of funds to enable him to establish some means of sup¬ 
porting himself. He had informed me that his father had been 
killed in an air crash in South America and I suggested that it 
might be possible to obtain some compensation. 

Accordingly I requested a solicitor friend to initiate some 
enquiries. In due course, he informed me the story told by Scott 
was quite false. In fact, his father was at that time, a hospital 
porter living in Bexleyheath in Kent, where his mother also lived. 

I told him there was nothing further I could do to help. He 
became highly excited and emotional. The meeting itself lasted 
no longer than a quarter of an hour. Subsequently, he sought to 
see me again in 1963 expressing contrition and asking me to allow 
him to meet me and seek my forgiveness. 

I arranged to meet him and did so publicly on the terrace of the 
House of Commons, at which meeting he again became highly 
excited and emotional but, before leaving, suggested I owed him 
some duty to support him financially, which I refuted in forceful 
terms. 

With hindsight I now realise that my proper course would have 
been to refuse to see him. It was evident from our last meeting 
that he resented my disinterest in him and was likely to try to 
cause trouble. 

I was on the horns of a dilemma. I foresaw no problem in 
resisting any demands which he might make upon me and dis¬ 
proving falsehoods which he might offer against me. 

However, I suspected that the allegations at which he was 
hinting, although without the slightest foundation, were such as 
would involve, as in the event they have, baring my soiil in public 
which could have, however unfairly, serious political implications 
and repercussions for me and the Liberal Party. 


FURTHER TALES OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


167 


As a result I misguidedly agreed to see him and did so on one 
further occasion which I think was at my flat. I agreed to this 
meeting in the belief that it was better to avoid public discussion 
and that I could convince him that his grievances were wholly 
unjustified and fanciful. 

As to the second allegation I wish, with no less emphasis, 
entirely to refute any suggestion that I have at any time been a 
party to any conspiracy to kill or injure Norman Scott, or to put 
him in fear, or that at any time I had any knowledge of, or 
believed in the existence of, any such conspiracy. 

Quite apart from the fact that any desire or willingness to kill or 
cause physical harm to any person is wholly alien to my nature, as 
many would be prepared to confirm, the circumstances which 
existed at the time when it was subsequently suggested that such a 
conspiracy may have existed are wholly inconsistent with the 
pursuit of the alleged objective of such a conspiracy. 

As I have mentioned above, there was a period when I was 
understandably concerned at the political implications which 
could result from the wild and unfounded allegations which it 
seemed probable that Norman Scott would publish. 

As I have further explained, my disquiet in that connection was 
in no way attributable to my having in any way been involved in 
any homosexual relationships with him, but because I foresaw 
that the mere necessity of truthfully denying such an association 
might raise, as a matter of public question, my own private 
matters wholly unconnected with Scott, which in my view I could 
claim to be private to me alone. 

It has been suggested in a recently published book that the time 
the alleged conspiracy was conceived and embarked upon was in 
the spring of 1975. By that time Scott had ensured in a variety of 
ways, including a statement in the course of an inquest in 1973 
[the inquest was in fact in May 1972], that his allegations had been 
widely disseminated and, although fully known by the press and 
the major political parties, wisely ignored by them. 

The worst that Scott could falsely allege had been revealed. Far 
from this having adversely affected either me or the Liberal Party 
politically, which had been my fear, the party under my leader¬ 
ship, had increased its vote in two elections in February and 
October 1974 from two millions to six millions and five and a half 
millions respectively and I had increased my own majority from 
369 to 11,000 and 6,700 respectively. 

Against this background it is manifestly ludicrous to suggest 


168 


THE LAST WORD 


either that I any longer considered that any public reliance would 
be placed upon the utterances of Scott, or that any measures were 
needed to deal with him, least of all the wholly unthinkable 
approach of conspiring to achieve his death, injury or otherwise. 

It appears that Newton was responsible for causing the death of 
Scott's dog and may have made an abortive attempt upon the life 
of Scott. I do not pretend to know the truth of this matter and 1 
can only reassert that not only did I have no need to take any part 
in any such project, and did not do so, but I had no knowledge 
whatsoever of it and was not, and would not, have under any 
circumstances have been willing to allow any such plot to be 
pursued had any hint of suggestion come to me about it. 

Finally, in relation to the third allegation, I wish vigorously to 
refute any suggestion that at any time I had knowingly been a 
party, either directly or indirectly, to the payment of any such 
money whatsoever to Newton or to Scott for the purpose alleged. 

The press have reported that the payment of £2,500 was made 
indirectly to Norman Scott in February 1974, for the delivery of 
certain letters and documents which had passed between him and 
others, not including myself. 

I understand that it is claimed a sum of £5,000 had been paid to 
Newton subsequent to the death of Scott’s dog after his release 
from prison and that the second sum had been dispersed from 
moneys provided by one Jack Hayward. 

I had no knowledge whatsoever of the purchase of the letters in 
question until the early part of 1976 when the fact was first 
publicly revealed in t.he national press. I immediately expressed, 
and continue to express, both my surprise and indeed my horror 
that any one could have thought it necessary to embark upon such 
a course. 

The letters had already been widely circulated and indeed seen 
by my parliamentary colleagues in 1971. 

I have no personal knowledge whatsoever of any payment to 
Newton of the sum of £5,000, or otherwise, and at no time made 
any arrangements for any such payments. It is correct that Mr 
Hayward paid me personally two sums of £10,000, each of which 
was to be used by me in any way which I thought appropriate in 
relation to campaigning expenses. 

In fact, by reason of other donations at other times it became 
unnecessary to have recourse to these sums. There had been 
grave difficulties at one stage in raising sufficient money for the 
expenses for the Liberal Party’s election campaign and I accord- 



FURTHER TALES OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


169 


ingly resolved that since Mr Hayward had made it quite plain to 
me that, not being adherent to the Liberal Party, he was not 
making these money’s available to the party but to me personally, 
I would not cause them to be paid into the Liberal Party fund, 
where they would be soon defrayed. 

I therefore made arrangements for the sum of £20,000 to be 
deposited with accountants and to be held as an iron reserve 
against any shortage of funds at any subsequent election. At no 
time, however, have I ever authorised the use of these funds for 
any payment of the kind alleged to either Scott or Newton. 

I have in consultation with my legal advisers given long and 
earnest consideration as to whether I should amplify the firm and 
precise general denial set out above. They are conscious, as I am, 
of the fact that those who have in the past been minded to put 
forward false assertions against me have, from time to time, 
varied the detail of their account in order to adjust it to such hard 
facts as, from time to time, have emerged. 

Having regard to the unusual way in which these current allega¬ 
tions have emerged, there is a real danger that if specific details 
relating to matters which can be proved are made known at the 
present time they may, in the course of the investigation, become 
known to, or be deduced by, those minded to further the allega¬ 
tions with consequent readjustment of their version. 

In these circumstances, I have been advised that, whilst it is 
right and proper that I should re-express the denials which are 
contained in this statement, it is neither incumbent upon me nor 
desirable to add anything further. 

Thorpe had been present when his solicitor handed Mr Challes 
this statement at Bath police station on 3 June 1978. 

Mr Challes then told of receiving another statement from Deakin 
and questioning him at Bristol police station. They listened to 
tape-recordings of a conversation between Deakin and Miller. 
Deakin repeated his denials of a greater involvement, and said he 
never gave Newton any details beyond Holmes’s telephone number. 

Mr Le Mesurier made no attempt whatsoever, answering 
“Nothing to say” 105 times when interviewed on 6 April 1978. 

On 4 August 1978 Mr Challes saw all four at Minehead police 
station and charged them with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott. 

When charged, Le Mesurier, Deakin and Holmes made no reply. 
Thorpe said, “I hear what you say. I am totally innocent of these 
charges. I will vigorously challenge them and plead not guilty.” 


170 


THE LAST WORD 


Mr Taylor then moved to what became the major point in 
police evidence. He referred to Mr Carman’s cross-examination 
of the earlier police witness, Mr Proven Sharpe, in the course of 
which Mr Carman had said Thorpe expressly requested the Chief 
Commissioner of Metropolitan Police and the then Home 
Secretary, Mr Reginald Maudling, to investigate Scott’s allegations, 
and let him know “once and for all if there was any truth or anything 
further to be investigated.’’ Mr Carman had insisted that there 
would be documentary evidence of this request. 

Taylor: “Have you made enquiries both of the police and of the 
Home Office and seen documents?” 

Challes: “Yes, my lord.” 

Taylor: “Is there any evidence of any request, either orally or in 
writing, by Mr Thorpe for an investigation into Norman Scott’s 
allegations?” 

Challes: “No, my lord.” 

Mr Challes cross-examined 

This matter would be taken up again when Mr Carman rose to 
cross-examine but first we had to listen to Mr Mathew on the 
obsessive subject of the journalists Penrose and Courtiour. 
(Throughout the whole trial, for some reason or other, Mr Mathew 
pronounced Courtiour’s name “Courteeay” - a habit he had caught 
from Thorpe’s solicitor, Sir David Napley, in Minehead.) Mr 
Mathew’s first question established that Holmes was a man of 
“impeccable character,” ie no previous record. 

When Mr Challes flew to California in December 1977, said Mr 
Mathew, “Lo and behold, there also were Mr Penrose and Mr 
Courteeay.” Mr Challes agreed that the two journalists had trav¬ 
elled in the same plane. He had not expected them to be there. They 
were also present at his interview with Mr Bessell, on Mr Bessell’s 
insistence. This was'unique in his experience and he had not wanted 
the reporters present, but he had no choice. 

The two reporters had also taken him to Holmes’s London 
address on an occasion when he had been unable to find Holmes. 

Mathew: “Do you know anything about election expenses?” 

Challes: “I don’t, no, my lord.” 

Mathew: “Do you know that the amount is strictly limited by law 
to £1,075 plus Ip per voter?” 

Challes: “Not within my knowledge, my lord.” 

Mathew: “If a candidate overspends, I believe he may be 
unseated and fined.” 



FURTHER TALES OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


171 


Challes: “Not within my knowledge, my lord.” 

Mathew's cross-examination was a classic example of suggestion. 
In fact Holmes never gave any explanation of his dealings with 
Thorpe's £20,000 “election expenses. " Here Mr Mathew was intrud¬ 
ing the idea into the jury's mind that it may have been something 
to do with an election fiddle, without calling any evidence to this 
effect and without even having his information confirmed by Mr Challes. 

When Mr Gareth Williams opened his cross-examination on 
behalf of Deakin, he did not ask whether or not his client was a man 
of “impeccable character” - nor as it happens, did Mr Carman for 
Thorpe, no doubt through an oversight. 

The important part of Mr Williams’s cross-examination estab¬ 
lished that Mr Challes had always considered Miller a “potential 
defendant.” The judge interrupted to say that he intended to ask the 
jury to consider whether or not they should regard Miller as an 
accomplice. Evidence of an accomplice is traditionally regarded as 
unsafe unless it is corroborated. In retrospect, one may doubt the 
Crown's wisdom in choosing to use Miller as yet another unreliable 
witness for the prosecution, instead of putting him in the dock with 
Thorpe, Holmes, Le Mesurier and Deakin. Since the only other 
evidence against Deakin came from Newton, who was unquestion¬ 
ably an accomplice, this rather reduced the case against Deakin to 
dust and ashes. One began to appreciate the magnitude of the 
Crown's task in securing a conviction against any criminal who is not 
actually caught red-handed by the police, when the prisoner's refusal 
to give evidence is not allowed to count against him. 

Mr Williams’s last question to Mr Challes did not get him 
anywhere. 

Williams: “Did you interview Scott in the presence of Penrose 
and Courtiour?” 

Challes: “No, they were m the vicinity, but we wouldn’t let them 
into the house.” 

Happening to sit next to Mr Penrose in court at this moment, I 
received the impression that his memory might have differed from the 
Chief Superintendent's on this unimportant point, had he been called 
as a witness. I produce this minor piece of information merely to 
illustrate the inconsistencies which may arise when two honourable 
and disinterested witnesses try to remember the same event. 

Mr Cowley rose briefly to establish that his client, too, was a man 
of impeccable character. He said that Le Mesurier had served some 
six years in the Royal Air Force with an “exceptional” record. 

Mr Carman’s first questions concerned Mr Challes’s dealings with 


172 


THE LAST WORD 


Penrose and Courtiour. On this occasion, Mr Carman made the 
explicit suggestion that there might have been “tampering with 
witnesses.” 

Challes: “I have not taken any statement from Mr Penrose, Mr 
Courtiour, or from any other journalist about what witnesses they 
have interviewed.” 

At the end of the day, in the absence of the jury, Mr Carman 
made rather a strange application. He said that last February, 
London Weekend Television had written to Thorpe asking if he 
weuld like to appear on a television programme with the journalists 
Penrose and Courtiour. Thorpe’s lawyers had written back com¬ 
plaining in strong terms to the chairman of London Weekend, Mr 
John Freeman. They said they wanted to know whom the journal¬ 
ists had interviewed and what payments had been made. Mr 
Carman thought it right the jury should know’ w’ho had been seen by 
the journalists. 

Mr Carman was applying for the judge to order Mr Challes to 
investigate this matter and report to the court. He said that since 
tampering with witnesses was a criminal matter, this was a proper 
matter for the police to investigate. The judge w’as still chuckling to 
himself about the idea of Thorpe being asked to appear on a 
television programme with the two journalists. Between chortles he 
asked Mr Carman why he did not ask the two journalists to give 
evidence. Mr Carman's answer seemed to suggest that the judge 
would find them objectionable as witnesses. He insisted that it w’as 
Mr Challes’s job to investigate any suggestion of tampering with 
witnesses. The judge managed to control his merriment enough to 
rule against Mr Carman’s application. 

The judge: “You must ask Penrose and Courtiour to come and 
answer questions. I have no objection to them and might even enjoy 
it. If they perjure themselves, I hope someone will send them to 
prison.” 

Of course Mr Carman did not call them as witnesses. He called 
no witnesses at all having reckoned, perhaps, that the risks of a 
protracted defence were greater than the possible advantages. 

Next Mr Carman turned to the matter w hich was to dominate the 
newspaper headlines for the next two days: whether or not Thorpe 
had asked the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police and the Home 
Secretary to investigate Scott’s allegations. Clearly he had been 
briefed in the firmest possible way that this request had been made, 
and thought that Mr Challes was trying to fudge the issue. 

It w f as undoubtedly the case that Thorpe had approached the 



FURTHER TALES OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


173 


Commissioner about one specific allegation which had been attri¬ 
buted to Scott - that he had once turned up with a gun in the House 
of Commons - but no request for a general enquiry had ever been 
received. On the strength of the one enquiry, Thorpe had elicited a 
note from Mr Maudling, the then Home Secretary, which might 
have seemed to suggest he had been investigated and was in the 
clear, but in fact it referred only to this one specific enquiry about an 
incident which had never occurred. Thorpe had used Mr Maudling’s 
letter to good effect with his Liberal colleagues, and would appear 
to have convinced himself of the truth of his claim. Try as he might, 
Mr Carman could not shake the Chief Superintendent from the 
position that Thorpe had made no such approach. 

Carman: “All I want to ask is that in 1971, for whatever reason, 
Mr Thorpe was alerting the Home Secretary to the ‘anxious’ 
activities of Norman Scott.” 

Challes: “I don’t accept that the alerting came from Mr Thorpe. 
Your suggestion is that Mr Thorpe initiated whatever went on in 
1971. I, from my knowledge and examination of the files, don’t 
accept that.” 

Mr Carman’s last questions were on the matter of the man called 
Hetherington. It appeared that the police had first learned about 
him in a letter from Thorpe’s solicitor, Lord Goodman, to the 
Director of Public Prosecutions. Mr Bessell had merely confirmed 
the episode when Mr Challes asked him about it. 

The Hetherington mystery was never explained . Plainly Mr 
Carman hoped to make more out of it than the prosecution did. They 
could scarcely charge Thorpe at this late stage with conspiracy to 
murder an unidentified man on the unsupported evidence , once 
again, of Mr Bessell. What was most striking was the use the judge 
made of it in his summing up. 

When the court rose, Mr Challes was still in the witness-box. 


Day twenty: 6 June 1979 

The day opened with Mr Challes still in the witness-box. He was at 
pains not to gloat when Mr Taylor rose to read a statement which 
had finally been agreed with the defence on the vexed question of 
whether or not Thorpe had asked the Home Secretary and 
Metropolitan Police to investigate Scott’s allegation of a homo¬ 
sexual relationship. He would not have been human if one could not 
have seen a little gleam of triumph in his eye. 

Taylor: “. .. It is admitted that no request, whether oral or in 


174 


THE LAST WORD 


writing, was made by Mr Thorpe for an investigation either by the 
Home Secretary, Mr Reginald Maudling, or by the Metropolitan 
Police, as to the truth of Norman Scott’s allegations, save as to the 
two points raised in the note of 17 June 1971.” 

These two points were a query about the pistol incident in the 
House of Commons and a request to know whether the Home Office 
possessed any psychiatric reports on Scott . 

Thorpe's claim to have asked for this investigation was only one 
weapon in an arsenal of rebuttal postures , but the prosecution plainly 
felt happy to have neutralised it. 

A second admission referred to a draft letter to Lord Byers, 
which was rejected because, in fact, Sir John Waldron, the Police 
Commissioner, objected to certain words in it. The significance of 
the draft letter can be understood from the following letter sent by 
Thorpe to Mr Reginald Maudling, then Home Secretary, on 13 July 1971: 

My dear Reggie, 

I am very grateful to you for your interest and help in the case 
of Scott. As far as Byers, Steel and myself are concerned the 
matter is closed. 

To the intense annoyance of all three of us, Hooson [Liberal 
MP for Montomeryshire] - whose motives are not entirely selfless 
- is intent to go on rummaging around, seeing if he can’t stir up 
something. He’s already suggested that I should have resigned 
from the leadership and possibly Parliament as well! 

Frank [Byers] feels the only way to convince him that he is 
really muckracking is to set out the facts in a confidential letter 
from me to Frank, of which he would keep the letter but which 
Hooson should be shown. 

The enclosed is the letter which I propose to send Frank. 
Before I do so I would want to be certain that it accurately reflects 
your own recollection of our exchanges and that of Sir John 
Waldron [the Commissioner]. 

In short I would like to append to my private letter to Frank a 
short note from you, and one from Waldron, or one from you on 
behalf of both, saying that its contents are a fair summary. No 
more is required. Needless to say it would remain in Frank’s files 
and be treated as totally confidential. 

I am sorry to be a bother. But the first lesson in politics is that 
no one can ever be as disloyal as one’s own colleagues! 

Yours ever, 

Jeremy. 


FURTHER TALES OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


175 


After the reading of these formal admissions, Mr Carman con¬ 
tinued his cross-examination of Mr Challes. 

Carman: “Shortly after you interviewed Mr Thorpe, Private Eye 
magazine published an article headed ‘the Ditto Man’. Was ‘Ditto’ 
the word Thorpe used during the interview to summarise that he 
had nothing further to add, for reasons he had given earlier?” 

Challes: “Yes, my lord. It looks as if that publication had been 
given an indication of what transpired at the interview. But I am 
satisfied that it did not come from police sources. It was disturbing 
not only to your client but also to me.” 

Lawyers were present at the interview as well as police officers, he 
said, and gave Mr Carman to understand that the leak had probably 
come from the office of Sir David Napley, Thorpe’s solicitor. 

After a few questions in re-examination, Mr Taylor turned to the 
judge and said, “Well, my lord, that is the case for the Crown.” He 
sat down. 

The jury were now sent away while we heard legal submissions. It 
was proposed they should come back at three o’clock, but once 
again counsel were not able to restrain themselves to a timetable, 
and they were sent away for the rest of the day. 

Defence submissions 

These were to prove a re-run of defence submissions on the first day 
of the trial, except that whereas on that occasion they were designed 
to stop the three main Crown witnesses - Bessell, Newton and Scott 
- on grounds that having accepted money from the press they were 
not credit-worthy, the arguments were now addressed to stopping 
the whole trial, there being no case to answer, on the same grounds. 
Here, stripped of most rhetorical flourishes and judicial interrup¬ 
tions, are the bare bones of their submission. 

Mr Mathew for Holmes 

The evidence is so unreliable that any verdict of guilty would be 
unsafe. Evidence of conspiracy to kill against Holmes relies on two 
witnesses: Newton and Bessell. Of these two, Bessell’s evidence 
against Holmes on this charge is limited to Holmes’s alleged ad¬ 
mission in California. It is not the judge’s job to decide who is lying, 
but he may decide whether a witness is credit-worthy, and he must 
advise on the danger of convicting on the uncorroborated evidence 
of an accomplice. Newton was not only an accomplice, he was also a 
perjurer - by his own admission, at Exeter Crown Court, and in the 
witness-box at the Old Bailey (over the American traffic accident 


176 


THE LAST WORD 


and other matters). In addition to having lied in the witness-box - 
the judge was invited to remember his attitude there - Newton was 
tainted by a financial interest. Finally, said Mr Mathew, he had lied 
about the gun jamming. 

The judge: “I would think that if the gun really jammed, that 
would help the prosecution. It indicates an intention to kill.” 

Mathew: “In my submission, the jury must decide the gun did jam 
and therefore Newton was lying. He is therefore an unsafe witness. 
Is the jury going to be allowed to say yes, we believe the witness on 
this point, but not on that one?” 

The only possible corroboration of Newton's and Bessel!’s unsafe 
evidence, said Mr Mathew, was the tape-recording where there was 
reference to a “conspiracy to bloody murder.” But that was incon¬ 
clusive. Miller should be treated as an accomplice and so, said Mr 
Mathew, should Mr Bessell. 

Bessell agreed he had lied on many occasions. How can the 
Crown put forward evidence in such scandalous circumstances? 

The judge: “Ha, ha, I must agree that nobody seems interested in 
justice, only money. Ha, ha.” 

Suddenly - irrelevantly - one noticed that Mr Mathew had a 
surprisingly common accent as he ended his address. 

Mathew: “If I be right about this, m’lord, in my submission they 
should not be allowed to corroborate each other.” 


Mr Williams for Deakin 

There was no corroboration of Newton’s evidence against Deakin 
on the murder aspect. The only corroborative evidence against 
Deakin at all came from Miller, a co-conspirator who had been 
desciibed as such by the Crown. Of that evidence, the only part 
against Deakin from Miller was supporting Newton’s claim of hav¬ 
ing made a telephone call from Heathrow, and Miller’s evidence on 
that point was not conclusive. To leave Deakin to the jury on 
Newton’s uncorroborated evidence would result in an unsafe 
conviction. 

Mr Cowley for Le Mesurier 

The conspiracy, if there was one, ended on Porlock Hill. All evi¬ 
dence against Le Mesurier on the murder charge related to events 
after that incident. Ergo Le Mesurier could not have been a 
member of the conspiracy. Evidence against him is irrelevant, 
therefore inadmissible, so any conviction would be unsafe. 



FURTHER TALES OF MR JEREMY THORPE 


177 


Mr Carman for Thorpe 

The second charge, of incitement, should be dismissed out of hand 
since it relied only on Mr Bessell’s evidence. The law’s definitions of 
exhortation or suggestion did not include humorous badinage. (The 
judge ruled against this application out of hand, pointing out that 
humour was only on one side, according to the evidence.) 

On the second charge, of conspiracy, there were six named con¬ 
spirators: the four defendants, Newton and Miller. The only evi¬ 
dence against Thorpe related to what passed between him and 
Holmes. There was no evidence connecting him with any of the 
other four. The only evidence against Thorpe on this point was 
circumstantial rather than direct. 

It was in the course of bickering with Mr Carman about whether 
this consideration justified him in stopping the trial - whether, that 
is, the jury could be trusted to assess the truth of Mr Bessell’s 
evidence - that the judge first produced his notable remark: 
“Remember, I have the last word.” 


12 

The Defence 


Day twenty-one: 7 June 1979 

The defence opened with a minor bombshell. Many journalists had 
not yet arrived in court when Mr Mathew stood up to open his 
defence of Holmes. 

Mathew: “My lord, on behalf of Mr Holmes I call no evidence.” 

He sat down again. The few journalists in the press benches at 
that unearthly hour of half past ten in the morning looked at each 
other stupidly. Then the truth dawned. Holmes, who had so much to 
explain, was not going to give evidence or take the oath in his own 
defence. After a pause of about ten seconds while everybody 
worked it out, there was a noisy scramble for the door which 
drowned the voice of Mr Williams calling his first and only witness 
for the defence, George Deakin. 

Red-haired and pasty-faced, Deakin was not the most beautiful 
of the four defendants, but he was the only one to give evidence. He 
spoke in a surprisingly deep voice for such a small man. Under 
examination from his counsel, Gareth Williams QC, this is the story 
Deakin told: 

A friend introduced Deakin to Le Mesurier who recommended 
Holmes to him for advice on tax, currency and house-buying 
matters. Deakin had never been a homosexual and had no connec¬ 
tion with the Liberal Party - in fact he voted Conservative. He was 
trying to find a legal way of avoiding the dollar premiums to buy a 
house overseas and Holmes produced a scheme involving the 
export of antiques. At the end of their last meeting, Le Mesurier 
said that a friend of Holmes was having trouble with a blackmailer; 
that a woman had already committed suicide and a three-year-old 
child’s life was threatened. Deakin assumed it was Holmes’s own 
wife and child and said, “Why don’t you go to the police?” 

Homes replied, “It is one of those situations where you can’t.” 

Deakin was never on close social or personal terms with Holmes 
and did not realise he was a bachelor. Le Mesurier, whom he 


THE DEFENCE 


179 


described as “a jovial fellow and a bit loud - if he was in the same 
room, you knew he was there,” became a drinking-friend. Le 
Mesurier asked him if he knew anyone to frighten the blackmailer 
off. Deakin suspected they wanted to put the fear of God into the 
blackmailer, threatening him with violence without actually using 
violence. Neither Holmes nor Le Mesurier ever asked him to hire 
someone to kill Scott. If they had, he would have refused, he said. 
Deakin replied, “I’ll see what I can do.” 

In about October 1974, Deakin mentioned the matter to Miller. 
Miller said he knew someone who would do anything for a “laugh 
and giggle.” Holmes was persistently asking him on the telephone if 
he had found anyone to frighten the blackmailer. He never went to 
Barnstaple with Holmes. 

At the Showman’s Dinner in Blackpool on 26 February 1975, 
Miller introduced him to Newton, whom he had not previously met, 
saying, “This is the boy for you problem.” 

Deakin replied, “It’s not my bloody problem.” 

No money was discussed, but when Newton asked how much he 
would be paid “for the frightening job,” Deakin replied, “I don’t 
expect they would want you to do it for nothing.” 

Later Newton got drunk and Deakin took him home. Three days 
later Newton telephoned and Deakin gave him Holmes’s telephone 
number in Manchester, later giving him Holmes’s other telephone 
in London and Dent. 

The judge: “Dent?” 

Deakin: “Dent, my lord. DENT.” 

Williams: “DENT.” 

The judge: “Where’s that?” 

Williams: “I don’t, my lord.” 

Deakin: “I don’t know.” 

Deakin met Newton once later, at Miller’s business premises in 
Cardiff, but did not wish to engage him in much conversation 
because he suspected Newton had designs on his wife. He never met 
him at Aust, never gave him photographs of Scott, had no further 
contact with Le Mesurier until after December 1975, no contact 
with Holmes after putting Newton in touch with him, and received 
no telephone call from Newton at Heathrow Airport in 1975 after 
the dog-shooting. He first heard of the dog-shooting from Miller, 
who also told him of Scott’s sexual allegations about Thorpe and 
another Person, named on Newton’s pink paper. Miller also told 
him of prominent politicians and high-ranking people engaged in 
hushing it up. Le Mesurier had later confirmed this on the 


180 


THE LAST WORD 


telephone, naming Harold Wilson, the Prime Minster, Lord 
Goodman ... 

The judge: “Thomas Cobley? We keeping getting these names 
and everybody gets wildly excited although it’s hearsay upon hear¬ 
say upon hearsay.” 

Deakin told his solicitor - a friend - whb told him to keep his head 
down and say nothing. He had seen Le Mesurier once or twice, but 
all his information came from Miller. When he told Miller he w'ould 
deny everything he w ? as referring to press enquiries. The press had 
been most troublesome, parking outside his home for five days. 
(The judge here interrupted to say something, being apparently 
overcome by laughter.) 

Later, he had made a voluntary statement to the police. It was on 
his initiative that reporting restrictions had been lifted at the 
Minehead committal proceedings. Similarly, he had chosen to give 
evidence despite his legal right to say nothing. 

“I am here because I have nothing to hide,” he said. 

Deakin cross-examined 

We did not know it at the time, but this w as to be our only opportun¬ 
ity to see Mr Taylor in the role of cross-examiner. His mild, under¬ 
standing manner had never left him when he w'as examining his own 
witnesses even when - as with Newton’s insistence that he was only 
pretending the gun had jammed, or Miller’s insistence that he knew 
only of a conspiracy to frighten - he must have felt intensely irri¬ 
tated by them. Now a new r Mr Taylor emerged, still polite, but firm, 
and with occasional hints of righteous exasperation. In his final 
speech, Mr Taylor was to suggest that the case against Deakin w'as 
not, perhaps, as firm as it might have been against the other three 
defendants, nor did Mr Taylor oppose Deakin’s application for 
costs. But one would not have guessed that he had any indulgent 
feelings towards Deakin now\ Perhaps he already knew - or had 
guessed - that neither Thorpe nor Le Mesurier w ould give evidence, 
and this would be his only chance. 

Mr Taylor’s first ploy w as to hint, however delicately, that Deakin 
moved in crooked circles. Deakin. for his part, kept reiterating how 
compassionate he felt towards this three-year-old child whom he 
believed to be threatened. 

Taylor: “You thought you were being asked to assist because 
through the business that you were involved in, you may well be in 
contact with someone who might give this sort of assistance?” 

Deakin: “That was their impression but it was wrong ... I 



THE DEFENCE 


181 


suppose they thought I had more chance than Le Mesurier or a 
merchant banker would.” 

Frequently, Mr Taylor found himself stumbling against this 
three-year-old child, about whom Deakin seemed to feel an almost 
hysterical sentimentality. 

Taylor: “Did you intend to follow this up, or do nothing about 
it?” 

Deakin: “Both.” 

Taylor: “?*!!” 

Deakin: “I was thinking of this three-year-old child. I had only 
been told that a woman had committed suicide and they were 
threatening the life of a three-year-old child.” 

Mr Taylor kept pressing him on the point that, by his account, 
Deakin had never even so much as asked what the blackmail was all 
about, or who was involved. Deakin gave as good as he got. 

Taylor: “It was Holmes who said it was one of those cases where 
you couldn’t go to the police?” 

Deakin: “Yes.” 

Taylor: “Weren’t you interested in what it was all about?” 

Deakin: “No. I didn’t want to know, so I didn’t ask.” 

Taylor: “You might have got involved yourself?” 

Deakin: “I have.” 

Taylor: “There are various ways, aren’t there, of frightening 
someone? You might threaten to give some information, or 
threaten someone’s family . .. ?” 

Deakin: “Shooting a dog is one.” 

Taylor: “What the police couldn’t do to a blackmailer, you agree, 
would be to go and kill him?” 

Deakin: “I agree.” 

The more Mr Taylor pressed him on the degree of his involve¬ 
ment in the conspiracy, the more firmly Deakin denied that he had 
done anything beyond putting Newton in touch with Holmes. He 
strongly denied that Newton had said to him, “I hear you want 
someone bumped off. I am your man.” Taylor put it to him that 
Holmes knew very well where Scott was living and was most 
unlikely to confuse Barnstaple with Dunstable, whereas Deakin 
had made this mistake, by a slip of the tongue, in evidence that very 
morning. But one had the impression that Mr Taylor s subtlety was 
being wasted on Deakin . He countered with another sturdy denial. 

Deakin: “I didn’t think I had done anything wrong. I thought I 
was helping someone in relation to a blackmailer.” 

It was 4.25 pm when Deakin stood down. Everybody assumed 


182 


THE LAST WORD 


that the trial would be adjourned until next morning, with Le 
Mesurier in the box, to be followed by any defence witnesses Mr 
Cowley might have up his sleeve, and then Thorpe. But the dramas 
of the day were not yet over. In quick succession, we heard from Mr 
Cowley and Mr Carman. 

Cowley: “I call no evidence.” 

Carman: “My lord, on behalf of Mr Jeremy Thorpe, I call no 
evidence.” 

Once again, it took people some time to realise what had hap¬ 
pened, particularly those who had missed the morning’s drama. 

Looking not in the least bit put out -1 am convinced he had been 
informed that morning - Mr Taylor jumped to his feet and asked the 
judge for an adjournment until Monday, 11 June. This would give 
the prosecution time to prepare its closing address to the jury. 

The judge looked slightly surprised but rather amused that 
neither Thorpe nor any of the other defendants were going into the 
witness-box. / had a horrible suspicion, watching him, that one of his 
reasons for being amused was that the world's press would be denied 
the drama of Thorpe's appearance . Certainly there were groans and 
curses among the journalists and book-writers afterwards. Things 
were said about Thorpe and his colleagues which had been better left 
unsaid. No doubt there was someone from Kingsley, Napley and 
Company, taking it all down. 

The judge: “That is a good idea for all of us.” 



13 

Closing Addresses: the Crown 


Day twenty-two: 11 June 1979 

Before Mr Taylor could begin his closing address, which was to last 
two days, the jury had some questions to ask the judge. The first was 
on a point of fact - the date of the arrival of Scott’s letters from 
Switzerland. The second asked whether the jury should disregard 
the Van de Vater letters. 

This was quite an interesting point , since the judge, in an angry 
moment - “that’s just a bit of dirt thrown in” - had more or less 
directed them to do so while Scott was giving evidence. Mr Taylor 
later told them that the only significance of these letters, as far as he 
was concerned, was for the light they threw on Scott’s mental attitude 
at the time of his first approach to Thorpe in the House of Commons - 
Scott knew that Thorpe was a man of homosexual tendencies and, it 
had been suggested by the defence , wanted to have a homosexual 
affair with him. 

The judge, however, seemed to put a different light on the letters. In 
a ruminative tone, he said he thought it odd that Scott should steal 
someone’s letters if he wasn’t a blackmailer. Later, Mr Taylor was to 
point out that there wasn’t the slightest suggestion that Scott had 
blackmailed Vater over these letters, although that was not to stop the 
judge making the same point in his summing up. In fact, any sugges¬ 
tion that Scott was a blackmailer rather strengthened the motive, but 
the judge gave priority throughout to expressing his abhorrence of the 
four main Crown witnesses. The fact that Scott might have been a 
blackmailer gave another reason for discountenancing the whole 
prosecution case. 

Next the jury note said: “We would like more information about 
dates and interviews with Penrose and Courtiour.” 

This suggested the jury were approaching their task as private 
enquiry agents. The judge slapped them down: 

The judge: “The Crown has closed its case and after Deakin’s 
evidence on Thursday the defence are not going to call any more 



184 


THE LAST WORD 


evidence. So if you want to know' any more the answer is, ‘You 
never will. . . the curtains are dow n and you must decide the case on 
what you have heard; ” 

In reply to quibbles from Mr Carman, the judge once again 
produced his ominous remark: “Remember, I have the last word.” 
It crossed my mind that on this second occasion the judge not only 
derived comfort from the reflexion, but he seemed to be inviting the 
defence to derive comfort from it too. But perhaps my impression was 
mistaken, and I wu? imagining things. 

Finally, the jury’ wrote this: “We were promised a bundle of 
agreed facts. Can we have them?” 

This question suggested an attentive conscientious jury, even an 
intelligent one. Presumably the bundle of agreed facts was pro¬ 
duced. Mr Taylor proceeded to list about sixty of them in the course 
of his closing address. 

Mr Taylor s closing address: a sad duty 

Two days was too long to spend on the job. The best of these closing 
addresses came from Mr Williams, and it was also one of the 
shortest. Parts of Mr Taylor s speech were beautiful, parts were 
highly effective, but it should have been quarter the length and had 
more venom in it. No speech which lasts two days can end by 
breeding anything but confusion and resentment in its hearers. His 
opening passages, which occupied the headlines in even’ British 
newspaper next day, established the major confusion in Mr Taylor’s 
approach which, one could now' see, had plagued the w’hole presen¬ 
tation. Put at its simplest, Mr Taylor w as too much of a gentleman. If 
the jurors noticed any difference between his approach and that of 
Mr Carman or Mr Williams, they probably wrote it down to weak¬ 
ness. Mr Taylor was bound by the convention which makes pros¬ 
ecuting counsel “ministers of justice ” rather than advocates of one 
side. To someone unfamilar with this convention, it seemed that Mr 
Taylor*s gentlemanliness was his fatal flaw. This is how he opened 
his address to the jury: 

“You have heard some four weeks of evidence on behalf of the 
Crown in this trial and on Thursday last you heard Mr Deakin’s 
account. Now as you stand back and look at this case as a whole, tw’o 
facts lie at the root of it. 

“Both of them are clear and unchallenged. Mr Thorpe in 1961 
was a bachelor with homosexual tendencies. He was also a young 
Member of Parliament with the highest and most determined ambi¬ 
tions to get to the top. 



CLOSING ADDRESSES; THE CROWN 


185 


“It is the working out over the years, and the conflict of these two 
traits of character that are the key, and the only key, to what 
followed. 

“The tragedy of this case on any view is that Mr Thorpe has been 
surrounded and in the end his career blighted by the Scott affair. His 
story is a tragedy of truly Greek or Shakespearian proportions-the 
slow but inevitable destruction of a man by the stamp of one defect.” 

It seemed curious that Mr Taylor should cast Thorpe as a heroic 
character when there had been no evidence on this point. The English 
do not traditionally regard politicians as heroic, and probably few 
people would have thought of regarding him as a hero if he had not 
been charged with conspiracy and incitement to murder . He had had 
an opportunity to display such heroic qualities as he might possess in 
the witness-box and had declined to avail himself of it, but Mr Taylor 
was too gentlemanly, and played too much by the rules, to attempt to 
take advantage of that. All the jury had seen was a pale face in the dock . 

The evidence did not suggest that homosexuality was Thorpe's 
only defect, nor did Mr Taylor call other evidence to illustrate the scope 
of these admitted “homosexual tendencies." The court had heard quite 
enough in evidence to make it odd that he should be identified now as a 
classical hero destroyed by the stamp of one defect. Other defects which 
had been suggested were an extraordinarily cavalier attitude to normal 
commercial properties - over the Hayward property deal - ruthless 
manipulation of other people, meanness, selfishness as a lover and a 
readiness to lie, twist and bluff which, in anybody but a party politician, 
would be considered truly breathtaking. 

My point is not that there was any moral obligation on the part of 
Mr Taylor to present Thorpe as a squalid and unscrupulous oppor¬ 
tunist who had finally met his come-uppance. My point is simply that 
he made his job as prosecutor more difficult by producing, at this late 
stage and in the teeth of all the evidence, the image of a classical hero 
beset by the Furies as the result of one defect. Instead of asking the 
jury to act as society's watchdog to punish a sordid and reprehensible 
crime, he was asking the jury to cast itself as an avenging Nemesis - 
blind to pity, servant of distant and inscrutable gods - and complete 
the destruction of a classical hero. Of course, this is one interpretation 
of the prosecution's job, but I am not sure it is the most effective one, 
and I rather fear it may have been placing too great a burden on any 
jury of predominantly working-class Londoners. 

Mr Taylor's next passage may seem to reduce the effect of his great 
rhetorical flight about Thorpe, but the impression had already been 
created: it might be a painful and unwelcome one, but it was 


186 


THE LAST WORD 


nevertheless the duty of the jury to convict Thorpe if (and only if) 
they decided the case against him had been established. A less 
scrupulous prosecutor, as I say, might have hinted improperly that it 
was the jury's happy privilege to act for society in this matter . The 
other three defendants, said Mr Taylor, were men of less renown. 
They were before the court because of their involvement in the 
hiring of Newton as Thorpe’s hit man. 

“It is now clear beyond dispute is it not, that each of them did play 
a part in that hiring. Not only are these three charged with a serious 
crime but because of the fame of the fourth defendant the case has 
attracted the widest publicity to which they are not used. To them and to 
those close to them, just as for Thorpe, this is a sad and tragic case. 

“I start with this not for effect, but because it would be inhuman if 
one did not feel sympathy for the defendants - maybe not in large 
measure, and perhaps not particularly for Thorpe. But sympathy 
can have no part in your deliberations as a jury ... the jury must 
decide whether in each defendant’s case the Crown has discharged 
the burden of proving guilt. Sympathy, though you may feel it, has 
to be put aside when considering your verdicts.” 

Perhaps it was as well that Mr Taylor did not plan this passage for 
effect. If he had paused to consider the effect of asking a jury to put 
aside all feelings of sympathy, he might have realised that it would 
have precisely the opposite one. A more aggressive prosecutor might 
have urged them to keep some rein on their understandable feelings 
of anger and contempt. 

But the worst trap he fell into here was in accepting the defence - 
and judge's - representation of the burden of proof, as if proof were 
some abstruse intellectual game played according to complicated 
rules which a jury could only partially understand - rather than 
simply a matter of convincing the jurors beyond reasonable doubt 
that the defendants did it. 

Coming after the encomium to Thorpe as a classical tragic hero 
destroyed by the stamp of one defect, this suggestion that the jury 
might feel greater sympathy for the other defendants than for Thorpe 
would do nothing to reduce Thorpe's chances of acquittal, and could 
only have increased the other defendants' chances. 

Next, Mr Taylor dealt with the gravity of the charges: 

“The fact that the murder attempt was bungled does not detract 
from its gravity. It cannot be excused or overlooked because no 
human being was, in fact, harmed, or because it was a long time ago, 
or because the defendants, perhaps especially Mr Thorpe, have 
already suffered much anguish. 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE CROWN 


187 


“If Mr Scott had been killed, the atmosphere of this trial would 
have been very different ... it would have been a grim affair.” 

Once again, it seemed to me that Mr Taylor had miscalculated, or 
misunderstood human nature. It is no good enlisting people s indig¬ 
nation over a hypothetical outcome. The point surely was that 
attempted murder is of itself an exceptionally unpleasant business 
and one that society, for its own protection, quite rightly discourages. 
So, he might have added, is violence against the person. 

Next, Mr Taylor launched himself into what I thought was a very 
sporting defence of press activities throughout the case. He did not, 
of course, mention the part played by those sections of the press 
w'hich decided that Thorpe should be protected, even after the 
events on Porlock Hill. It would be quite wrong, said Mr Taylor, if 
the jury returned verdicts of not guilty, because the press had 
muddied the waters or made fair trial difficult or impossible. 

His witnesses, he said, had been blackguarded in the most force¬ 
ful terms. 

“They have been called liars, accomplished liars, practised liars- 
every epithet that is in the vocabulary. Perjury, drug addiction, 
mental illness, greed and sheer wickedness are all sticks that have 
been used to beat various witnesses.” 

All these matters were outside the scope of the case, said Mr 
Taylor - rather hopefully, I thought. Furthermore, all four of his 
main witnesses (Bessell, Scott, Newton and Miller) had been 
involved in pecuniary arrangements with the press or media. But all 
the jury had to ask themselves was, is it true? The mere fact that a 
man sold his story to the press did not mean that it was false. 

This was all right so far as it went, but it ignored the important point 
that all four witnesses stood to gain much more money if there was a 
conviction. Mr Taylor should surely have dealt with this, perhaps to 
suggest it made the encouraging point (in his submission) that truth 
was a more valuable commodity than fantasy. Or he could have 
manfully agreed that it might seem to weaken their evidence, but only 
if the jury decided they were all lying on the essential points. 

The witnesses were not a closely knit group who could put their 
heads together to concoct a wicked story, said Mr Taylor. One was 
in California, another working horses in Devon, while Newton and 
Miller were plainly at loggerheads. In some cases, their stories did 
not even agree. Newton and Scott were hardly bosom companions 
after the shooting incident. There was no suggestion of collusion. The 
defence would blame the evil machinations of Penrose and Courtiour, 
but in fact it was simply the case that the evidence dovetailed. 


188 


THE LAST WORD 


This struck me as rather a weak answer to defence claims that 
Penrose and Courtiour had co-ordinated the story. Mr Taylor might 
have pointed out that the defence had called no evidence to support 
this claim, although it could perfectly well have called both journal¬ 
ists. In fact, the judge was to make this point in his summing up. 

Next Mr Taylor launched on his great list of facts which were 
either unchallenged or proved by documents. Others present 
counted sixty-one of them eventually. The important ones at this 
stage were that Thorpe in 1961 was a bachelor with homosexual 
tendencies; that he gave Scott money, wrote him affectionate 
letters; that Holmes had paid £2,500 to recover letters from Scott; 
that Thorpe had arranged for £20,000 to be paid to Holmes; that 
Holmes and Le Mesurier asked Deakin to find someone; 
that Newton took Scott and shot his dog without harming Scott; that 
Holmes met Newton and discussed his defence; that Le Mesurier 
arranged through Miller to meet and pay Newton £5,000; that 
Thorpe tried to persuade Mr Dinshaw to give different accounts of 
the money; and that he tried to persuade Mr Hayward to put 
pressure on Mr Bessell not to come to England. 

These agreed facts, said Mr Taylor, were undisputed. He might 
have added that it was agreed that Holmes met Newton before the 
shooting; and that Holmes and Thorpe were very close friends. 

Next, Mr Taylor dealt with the suggestion that the murder conspi¬ 
racy was a matter of light-hearted banter. But the jury had only to 
look at the motive, and at what happened later, to know whether the 
incitement was a joke or serious. 

Three of the defendants had admitted an agreement to frighten, 
said Mr Taylor. This, in my own estimate, was by far the most 
important admission of the whole trial, but Mr Taylor dealt with it 
more from the angle of the challenge this admission presented to the 
charge of conspiracy to murder than from the point of view that such 
an admission carried three-quarters of the prosecution case with it: 
motive, opportunity, agreement on criminal intent . 

Mr Taylor then proceeded to waste a great deal of time in estab¬ 
lishing motive, as if the existence of a homosexual relationship was 
crucial to the murder conspiracy, when the existence of a criminal 
conspiracy of some sort had already been accepted by three of the 
conspirators. In the event it probably did not matter because the jury 
decided that it had not been satisfactorily proved that the conspiracy 
was to murder, but at the time I thought he should have spent more 
effort arguing Thorpe's connection with the conspiracy which had 
been admitted, less time on alleging the homosexual relationship. 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE CROWN 


189 


With the benefit of hindsight one can see he should have spent far 
more time on establishing, or trying to establish, the lethal nature of 
the compact. 

Next Mr Taylor took the jury through the various untruths which 
had been established and agreed in Thorpe’s defence postures. 
Through his counsel Mr Carman, Thorpe had said he expressly 
requested Sir John Waldron, the former Police Commissioner and 
Mr Reginald Maudling, the Home Secretary, to investigate the 
matter. “It all looked very businesslike, frank, forthcoming and 
very impressive, did it not, until the jury learned it just was not true. 
Thorpe did not ask these authorities to investigate the matter. Only 
when Chief Superintendent Michael Challes revealed this in evi¬ 
dence did the defence concede it. 

“This is important, I submit, because it gives some insight into the 
way Thorpe worked. I am sorry to have to put it this way, but it 
comes to this - trying to fix the record.” 

Once again, Mr Taylor was striking this apologetic note. He later 
went on to list other occasions on which Thorpe had tried to fix the 
record and whitewash his own behaviour. Next day he was going to 
drop the apologetic tone a little and close his address in a fine state of 
indignation, saying how Thorpe had “lied, lied and lied again ” over 
the money given to him by Hayward. But by then, in my judgment, it 
was too late. We should have had this at the beginning of the address, 
as well as at the end. If only Mr Gareth Williams had been prosecut¬ 
ing and Mr Taylor had been defending Thorpe we would have had a 
battle to remember. As it was there were moments during Mr 
Williams's excellent closing address on behalf of Deakin when I 
received the impression that this might have been the case. 

Mr Taylor closed his morning’s address with a summary of the reasons 
for believing that Thorpe had a homosexual relationship with Scott. 

“The defence have said that there was no homosexual relation¬ 
ship with Scott, but three other concessions have been made. These 
are that Thorpe did have homosexual tendencies; that he did have 
what he described in his 1977 statement to the press as a “close and 
affectionate relationship” with Scott; and that Mr Scott wanted to 
have a relationship with Mr Thorpe. These facts simply will not lie 
down together, other than on the basis of the account given by Mr 
Scott. You may think that is the truth of it, and it was a really 
powerful motive in causing Mr Thorpe to act as he did, with pro¬ 
gressive attempts to deal with Mr Scott over the years - until in the 
end killing seemed to him in his obsessed state of mind the only way 
of dealing with it.” 




190 


THE LAST WORD 


After lunch, the four defendants jumped up from the steps into 
the dock like rabbits, Thorpe bowed deeply to the judge -thefirst 
sign that his old histrionic presence was still alive . 

Mr Taylor took the jury slowly through the attempts to silence 
Scott: Mr Bessell’s efforts to frighten him in Dublin by naming the 
Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice; offers of help; removing letters 
from the suitcase; the retainer paid to Scott when Thorpe became 
leader of the Liberal Party; payments to set him up as a model - 
“there is no suggestion that Bessell had motives of his own for 
paying Scott.” 

At one stage, Thorpe had said that if ever it became known he was 
a homosexual he would take his own life. “If you believe that, then 
that is some measure as to how seriously Thorpe took both his 
politics and the seriousness of this threat to it. Do you think for one 
moment that at that stage Mr Thorpe would be joking in light¬ 
hearted banter about Mr Scott?” 

Of course, if the jury believed Mr Bessell, Thorpe was guilty 
anyway . There was no need to add circumstantial details culled from 
Mr BesselTs evidence which supported its main theme . But every time 
Mr Taylor introduced that conditional he was - perhaps uncon¬ 
sciously - intruding an element of doubt in the jury's mind. I proceed 
at such length with Mr Taylor's speech because it seemed to me, for all 
its elegance, honesty and undoubted sincerity, a model of how 
prosecuting counsel should not address a jury in modern times, when 
jurors are drawn from every section of society and are often of limited 
intelligence, limited powers of concentration and limited affection for 
the police . 

“Why would Mr Bessell fabricate his allegations of the incite¬ 
ment to kill in 1969, the admission in 1976 and the plot to hire 
Newton? If his allegations are invented, he must be the most diabol¬ 
ical man who ever lived. It would be unhappy enough for someone 
to give true evidence against former friends, but if the evidence is 
false and fabricated it would make Shakespeare’s Iago and even 
Judas himself seem mildly disloyal.” 

After this elegant flight, Mr Taylor moved on - much too fast, in 
my opinion - to discuss the suggestion that Mr Bessell was a drug 
addict, suffering from delusions. He should have stuck on this earlier 
point, which illustrates the mistake of asking rhetorical questions . 
The listeners' immediate reaction is to answer: “Because he stands to 
gain £25,000 if Thorpe is convictedThis consideration would 
make Bessell no less of a grotesque monster, but it should have been 
dealt with here, and not left for the jury to discover for themselves . Mr 


CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE CROWN 


191 


Taylor should have dwelled on the extreme unlikelihood of anyone 
hoping to get away with such a far-fetched way of making money . 
Unfortunately for Mr Taylor , a predominantly working-class jury 
nurtured on television detective serials may have found such sugges¬ 
tions all too familiar , but Mr Taylor should have tried to separate 
fantasy from life in the jury's mind at this point . 

Having disposed of the drug question, pointing out that while on 
the drug Mandrax Mr Bessell was “apparently a trusted colleague,” 
Mr Taylor dealt with revenge as a possible motive. Finally, Mr 
Taylor arrived at the money motive - too late , in my view , since it 
would already have fixed itself in the jurors' minds as their own 
conclusion. Mr Taylor tried to minimise the sum involved , suggesting 
it was only a third of £50 y 000, and this was a mistake , since to a 
working man or woman £16 t 666.66 belongs no less to the realms of 
fantasy than £50,000, even if he is prepared to do the arithmetic. Mr 
Taylor would probably be receiving something closer to the larger sum 
(less tax) for his fee in the case , but not the jury. 

Was it really likely, asked Mr Taylor, that Mr Bessell would come 
to court knowing that every attempt would be made to destroy him 
for a small sum of money? 

“I ask you to consider this-is that something a man does, because 
in the end a man who has lied and been discredited comes to a point 
where he wants to tell the truth?” 

Even here y the rhetorical device of“Iaskyou to consider this" distances 
the speaker from his audience and puts a conscious element ofpersuasion 
into the argument - one which people instinctively react against. 

At this point, Mr Taylor suggested a possible reason for Mr 
Bessell’s willingness to testify: “Bessell knows he’s not going to 
have an old age. Perhaps he gave evidence because even a man who 
has told lies wants to tell the truth.” 

It was a manful point , but should have been developed at greater 
length if it was going to overcome the jury's inbuilt scepticism where 
money was concerned , and the further battering Mr Bessell was going 
to receive in the defence speeches. Better to have left the question of 
Mr Bessell's true motive alone . 

On the question of immunity, Mr Taylor pointed out that there 
was no suggestion Mr Bessell was an accomplice; on the question of 
having Pencourt present at his first interview with the police, Mr 
Taylor made the interesting observation that Mr Bessell had no 
reason to suppose at that stage that the police were interested in 
anything but a cover-up. Nobody had been to see him at the time of 
Newton’s trial in 1976, and it was only when Newton spilled the 



192 


THE LAST WORD 


beans on his release from prison that the police showed any interest. 
Bessell knew the Pencourt journalists were interested in exposure, 
and their presence was a safeguard. 

“As soon as I see Mr Challes, I knew he was a bird of a different 
feather. A straightforward, honest West Countryman, doing his job 
without fear or favour. But in the light of what had been suppressed 
in 1976, wasn’t it understandable that he was alarmed?” 

Mr Taylor took the jury through the correspondence between 
Thorpe and Mr Bessell on the attempt to defraud Jack Hayward of 
£250,000, arguing that Thorpe knew all about it all along. Once 
again, he said that Thorpe was “scheming and deviously planning to 
adjust the record ... I am sorry to say this, but the deviousness of 
Mr Thorpe rings through this case again and again.” He had been 
devious with Mr Hayward and Mr Bessell, writing letters to Mr 
Hayward denouncing “that bastard Bessell” at the same time as he 
was writing letters to Bessell in the most cordial terms. 

Mr Taylor ended for the day with a summary of the evidence op 
the incitement charge, and one realised with a shock that while 
urging us not to take the charges in isolation he had in fact been 
addressing himself to the incitement charge all day: 

“Either Mr Bessell made this up wickedly or it is true. There is 
really no other alternative about this.” 


Day twenty-three: 12 June 1979 

Mr Taylor's closing address continued 

On the second day of his closing address, Mr Taylor devoted himself 
to the conspiracy charge. He opened by pointing out that it did not 
matter to the murder conspiracy charge whether Newton went on 
Exmoor intending to kill Scott or bungle it; a conspiracy offence was 
complete once there was agreement to do something unlawful. 

There were three points to be borne in mind: the first was that 
Newton went on to the moor with a loaded gun; secondly he went as 
the result of an agreement at least with Holmes; thirdly the jury 
must ask themselves what he had agreed to do, and who was a party 
to it apart from Holmes. There was direct evidence from Deakin of 
the meeting between himself, Le Mesurier and Holmes at which the 
question of finding somebody to do something was discussed. 

Clearly there was an agreement between Newton and Holmes to 
do something. Mr Bessell said Holmes told him it was to kill Scott. 
Newton said the same. They both named £5,000 as the figure 
eventually paid. The two had never met. 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE CROWN 


193 


Holmes and Deakin maintains that it was a conspiracy to frighten, 
Le Mesurier claimed that he only came into the conspiracy at the 
pay-off. There was positive evidence from Deakin that Le Mesurier 
had been in it right from the beginning. 

The conspirators had tried to frighten Scott, to buy him, to steal 
his documents, but he still presented a threat. There was nothing left 
to do but kill him. Two appointments were made at hotels - they 
were a bad place to frighten people, quite a good place for killing 
them - and “you might think £10,000 is a big sum for anyone to pay 
just to go and frighten someone.” 

Newton was an accomplice and, in law, it would be dangerous to 
convict on Newton’s evidence alone. But Mr Bessell was not an 
accomplice and his evidence corroborated what Newton had said. 

Where Newton’s evidence was concerned, Mr Taylor plainly 
regarded himself as on dangerous ground: 

“You will be told by the defence that Newton is an unmitigated 
liar, but would you expect a hit man to give evidence like the 
Archbishop of Canterbury? . . . You may make an allowance for the 
fact that he is not a very cultivated man. It is the substance of his 
evidence that counts rather than the insolence of manner that 
surrounded it.” 

Mr Taylor then proceeded to cast doubt on the substance of it, 
suggesting that Newton was telling lies when he said he pretended 
the gun had jammed; and that he really intended to kill Scott all 
along. The defence made merry hell with this passage from Mr 
Taylor s speech , but poor Mr Taylor had a hopeless witness in 
Newton and it is hard to see what else he could have said. All his other 
evidence pointed to the fact that the gun had jammed. 

Next he turned to the curious feature of the bogus letter sent to 
Holmes purporting to be from Newton in prison. Le Mesurier later 
turned up with this letter, asking Miller to authenticate Newton’s 
signature. In face the letter had been concocted by the journalist Barrie 
Penrose, which was an unacceptable thing to do, said Mr Taylor, but it 
did establish the connection between Holmes and Le Mesurier. 

Miller was an accomplice, said Mr Taylor, and his evidence would 
require corroboration, but it was useful in some respects. Mr Taylor 
did not really elaborate on the respects in which it was useful: one had 
the impression that he must have heartily regretted putting Miller in 
the witness-box rather than in the dock. But it was Miller who had 
taken Newton to the pay-off. 

The money was crucial because it linked all the defendants. 
There was unchallenged evidence that Mr Hayward's first 




194 


THE LAST WORD 


payment procured by Thorpe had gone to reduce Holmes’s over¬ 
draft. Holmes was not in a position to spend £2,500 on the letters in 
1974 and a further £5,000 to pay off Newton in 1977. He told Mr 
Proven Sharpe he had never met Scott and didn’t know Newton, 
which enabled the Exeter trial to proceed on a basis of no con¬ 
spiracy - that the shooting was “Newton’s frolic on his own.” 

Both the money and the tapes linked Holmes to the conspiracy, 
the tapes providing some corroboration of conspiracy to murder. 

Where Deakin was concerned, Newton’s evidence of having told 
him about the dog-shooting was corroborated by Miller, although 
denied by Deakin. 

“The jury might think they can rely on something Newton and 
Miller really agree about,” said Mr Taylor with a valiant attempt at 
humour in his adversity. “After all, they have not put their heads 
together. They are at loggerheads.” 

The last twenty-five minutes were devoted to a blistering attack 
on Thorpe. It was fine, stirring stuff, but from the point of view of 
convincing the jury I could not help feeling we should have had it 
earlier. First, he took us through the Dinshaw-Hayward episode, 
pointing out that both were men of integrity. Thorpe had misled Mr 
Hayward time and again, and when Mr Dinshaw threatened to tell 
the truth about the money Thorpe had instructed him to send to 
Holmes, Thorpe had threatened that Dinshaw would have to leave 
the country. This episode, more than any other in the whole squalid 
case, appeared to make Mr Taylor really angry. Whether it was 
because Mr Dinshaw was a respectable witness, or because he was a 
Pakistani by birth and therefore required especially polite treatment, 
it started Mr Taylor off in the first and only denunciation of Thorpe s 
behaviour he wus to deliver. 

“That, however groping an attempt, was an attempt by Mr 
Thorpe to pervert the course of justice,” he began. Thorpe had 
given several conflicting accounts of what he had done with the 
money. He had never given Mr Hayward an explanation. 

“It is a measure of Thorpe’s preparedness to go to any lengths to 
avoid being exposed, and you may think it is not irrelevant to 
consider that when you are considering whether he would really go 
to the lengths of taking a life.” 

Mr Taylor referred to the celebrated Sunday Times headline of 
14 March 1976: “The Lies of Norman Scott - by Jeremy Thorpe.” 
His June 1978 statement to the police should be headed, “The Lies 
of Jeremy Thorpe - by Jeremy Thorpe,” said Mr Taylor, in a nice 
phrase. Mr Thorpe had “lied, lied and lied again,” he said, but the 




CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE CROWN 


195 


biggest whopper of all was when he said he had deposited Mr 
Hayward’s £20,000 with accountants as an iron reserve against 
future elections. 

After this magnificent display of indignation -directed, it may be 
noted, against lying rather than against such crimes as attempted 
murder, conspiracy or incitement to murder - Mr Taylor practically 
invited the jury to let George Deakin off. He was the only one of the 
four to have given evidence, Mr Taylor pointed out. If he was not 
allowed to count it against the others that they had declined to give 
evidence, he seemed quite prepared to count it in Deakin’s favour 
that he had done so. The only real evidence against Deakin came 
from Newton, said Mr Taylor, forgetting for the moment his previ¬ 
ous reference to Miller’s evidence. If the jury came to the conclu¬ 
sion that they could not convict him on the evidence given by 
Newton, then the proper verdict would be one of not guilty. 

He said he thought he had made out a good case against all four, 
but if the jury had any doubts, they should acquit. 

“All the Crown asks you to do is to return true verdicts in 
accordance with your oaths.” 

There can be no doubt that Mr Taylor had done his best, and a very 
valiant best, too . I don't think his form of advocacy was particularly 
well adjusted to a London jury - it might and perhaps should 
have impressed the judge, but the judge made it plain, long before Mr 
Taylor started, that he had other things in mind. 

To the extent that he was responsible for the framing of the charges, 
Mr Taylor must share the blame for an unsuccessful prosecution. At 
least two, possibly three, of the defendants would seem to be admit¬ 
ting the lesser crime of conspiracy to frighten. If he had taken that 
charge as well he might have been able to concentrate on the more 
serious charges to better effect. I think he - or rather the DPP - was 
wrong to put Miller in the witness-box rather than in the dock - a 
larger group in the dock might have added plausibility to the idea of a 
conspiracy. As it was, he was gravely handicapped by having two 
hopeless witnesses in Newton and Miller, and handicapped also by 
the judge's attitude to Mr Bessell and Scott. 

Perhaps the mildness of his tone in everything except the one matter 
of Thorpe lying is attributable to feelings of discouragement and fear 
that he would lose, anyway. But it was a sturdy effort for all that, and 
one had the impression that no private citizen would ever suffer an 
injustice at his hands. He had very little opportunity to practise his 
skills in cross-examination, two of his witnesses were useless, but he 
did his best. 



14 

Closing Addresses: the Defence 


Day twenty-four: 13 June 1979 

Mr Mathew 

Mr Mathew opened on a note of high indignation with an attack on 
the evidence of Mr Bessell and a strong defence of his client’s 
unimpeachable character which was only slightly damaged when he 
admitted, later on in his speech, that his client had undoubtedly 
been part of a conspiracy to frighten Scott and had hired the ruffian 
Newton for this purpose. Perhaps I should explain here what was 
never satisfactorily explained in court, that in criminal parlance the 
expression “to frighten” or “put the frighteners on” someone is 
understood to include a considerable degree of physical violence - 
whether razor-slashing or breaking some bones. It is not used in the 
colloquial sense of giving a mild shock, or promoting a sense of 
foreboding -“I’m frightened that it is going to rain.” The burden of 
Mr Mathew’s speech - as, indeed, that of the judge - was that it 
would be a disgraceful thing for someone of Holmes’s irreproach¬ 
able character to be convicted on the evidence of anyone so 
disreputable as Mr Bessell, let alone Newton. Neither seemed to 
consider that Holmes’s respectability had been in any way impaired 
by this admission that he had been part of a criminal conspiracy 
to harm a member of the public who was seen as a political 
embarrassment. 

But Mr Mathew’s indignation seemed genuine enough. Just 
occasionally the suspicion crossed my mind not only that he was 
hamming it up but that he wished us to know he was hamming it up. 
But perhaps I am attributing a greater degree of sensitivity to this 
expert and professional advocate than it would be proper for him to 
claim. 

The first reference was to Mr Bessell’s “double your money” 
arrangement with the Sunday Telegraph, whereby he would receive 
£50,000 for his story on a conviction, £25,000 on acquittal. 

“I wonder whether the scales of justice held by that figure on the 


CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE DEFENCE 


197 


dome at the top of this court is [sic] still trembling, having heard the 
startling admission from the witness Mr Peter Bessell,” he began. 
At the time, I thought one could object to this opening sentence 
on several grounds - that scales are plural and do not have ears , that 
if he really wanted to know whether they were still trembling he 
could perfectly well have gone outside and looked. But I also 
began to suspect that the exaggeratedly high-flown oratory was 
deliberate. 

“The premeditated and planned taking of another’s life is a most 
terrible crime. It is the ultimate offence because it offends against 
the fundamental laws <?f God and civilised people. It is with conspir¬ 
ing to commit such an offence that David Holmes is charged - a man 
of whom you, as members of the jury, have seen a lot but heard 
little. 

“He is a man of unimpeachable character. He works as a financial 
consultant in Manchester, and he is a prominent member of the 
Liberal Party, having at one time been its deputy treasurer. Nobody 
has even suggested of him before that he carried out or even 
contemplated the merest act of violence against another. 

“He now stands accused of conspiracy to murder on the evidence 
of two people who are self-confessed liars and perjurers and who 
have accepted that their behaviour in this case has been deceitful, 
devious and dishonest. They have received immunities - one of 
them so wide and all embracing as to be unique in the annals of 
English law . .. 

“They have suffered what can only be described as the 
Machiavellian attentions of two journalists whose names have 
dogged us from first to last during the saga of these unhappy events. 

“The two witnesses have very large financial interests not 
only in the case generally but actually in its outcome, the jury’s 
verdicts ...” 

Mr Mathew was to repeat these points over and over again in ever 
more violent language. The reason for this approach became clear 
when he dealt with his client's refusal to give evidence: it was not just 
that the evidence against him was questionable, but it was so 
tainted, so obviously to be dismissed out of hand, that there was no 
useful purpose in answering it. 

“Why should a man, subject no doubt to his own pressures, 
worries, inhibitions and possibly weaknesses, and maybe misgivings 
as to his own conduct - which, though they are not in any way 
possibly relevant to the offences with which he is charged, may 
nevertheless do him no credit - why should he submit himself to the 




198 


THE LAST WORD 


ordeal of the witness-box? ... Why should he, unless, of course, the 
evidence is such that it requires him to do so? 

“Perhaps it is unusual for a defendant not to give evidence. But 
this is a very unusual case, brought on the evidence of very unusual 
witnesses, and, you may think, therefore, that a very unusual course 
is justified.” 

Mr Mathew suggested that special circumstances might apply 
which Holmes could not describe without going into the witness- 
box and which his counsel could not mention on his behalf. He was 
confident, he said, that the judge would direct the jury that it would 
be utterly wrong for them to regard Holmes’s silence as contributing 
in any way towards guilt. 

Nor, of course, was his confidence in the judge misplaced. But on 
this point, it seemed to me, legal practice departed from the rules of 
common-sense. Holmes had exercised his right of silence not only in 
court but also throughout his police interrogation, relaxing it only 
once during his initial interview with Mr Proven Sharpe when he 
untruthfully said he had never met Newton. To invite the jury to 
disregard this was asking them to subordinate their reasoning facul¬ 
ties to some elaborate and arbitrary set of rules governing the nature 
of proof; in other words they were not being asked whether they 
thought beyond reasonable doubt that Holmes and the others had 
conspired to murder Scott. They were being asked to umpire a game 
called “Proof” in which the players from time to time informed them 
of the rules. 

“Through me, what Mr Holmes is saying to you is this: ‘I am not 
guilty of this offence. You have not proved through the evidence 
that I am, because the evidence you have brought defies belief. 
Therefore, there is no need, because there is no evidence, for me to 
deny the charge.’ ” 

Once again, Mr Mathew ran through the reasons for regarding 
Newton and Mr Bessell as unreliable witnesses. One wondered if, in 
their boredom over this endless repetition, the jury might not start 
trying to find reasons for regarding them as reliable. 

Newton had perjured himself at Exeter; was an accomplice; 
was trying to sell his story; had a clear motive for perjuring himself 
again. Mr Bessell had agreed there was a credibility problem, he had 
agreed ... all Mr Bessell’s self-flagellation was recalled, his devious 
business proposals to Mr Hayward, his immunity, his “double your 
money” arrangement with the Sunday Telegraph ... 

A more interesting passage, which took up a large part of his 
morning address, concerned the journalists Penrose and Courtiour. 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE DEFENCE 


199 


What had previously been hinted at was now made explicit. Without 
having called any evidence on the point, Mr Mathew was suggesting 
that Penrose and Courtiour had deliberately orchestrated the evi¬ 
dence between Mr Bessell and Newton with a view to the commer¬ 
cial possibilities of their book. Nobody was in a position to argue the 
point, of course, but one rather admired Mr Mathew's nerve here. He 
was asking the jury to accept not only that Mr Bessell had concocted 
the story of a murder conspiracy with a view to writing a book about it 
and making money after Thorpe s conviction, but also to accept that 
Penrose and Courtiour were similarly concerned to secure a convic¬ 
tion although their book came out before Thorpe and Holmes were 
even arrested. But his next question was the most breathtaking of 
all: 

“Why have we not seen Messrs Penrose and Courtiour? Why has 
the Crown not put them in the witness-box? You are entitled to ask 
yourselves why.” 

Even the judge baulked at this, pointing out in the course of his 
summing up that he had excluded the two journalists from large parts 
of the trial on a defence application, assuming the defence proposed 
to call them. Mr Taylor had made it clear from the beginning that he 
had no intention of calling them - indeed they could have had no 
evidence to offer on anything which had happened before May 1976 
when they were called in by the former Prime Minister, Sir Harold 
Wilson, to investigate the matter. By then, the conspiracy - if there 
had been a conspiracy - was over . 

Mr Mathew proceeded to take the jury through the various stages 
of Pencourt’s investigation into the Thorpe case, intimating that at 
every stage they were not concerned to discover the truth so much 
as to orchestrate an untruthful charge against Holmes and Thorpe 
for the purpose of making money: “You may think that the 
behaviour and clear interest of these two journalists explain a great 
deal about the case,” he concluded ominously. He told them that 
the journalists had made £100,000 from their book , although there 
had been no evidence on this point, but he neglected to mention that 
the book had been published before the prosecution was started, or 
that, under those circumstances, evidence of a criminal conspiracy to 
frighten against a prominent politician was just as sensational, and 
rather easier to believe, than evidence of conspiracy to murder. 

It was an oddly unsatisfactory passage in the defence case for 
Holmes, and rather stole the thunder - so dramatically had it been 
made -from what was surely the strongest point of the defence, in so 
far as it hung on the distinction between a conspiracy to kill and 


200 


THE LAST WORD 


conspiracy to frighten. This was that on his own admission in the Old * 
Bailey (although he had seemed to deny it at Minehead) Newton had 
asked Mr Kuttner, of the Evening News: “Suppose I was only sent to 
put the frighteners on him . How would that look?” Newton did have 
an explanation of sorts for his question, but in Mr Mathew’s hands it 
need have looked no more convincing than his insistence that the gun 
had not jammed - or than anything else that Newton said. But Mr 
Mathew rather threw away this valid point, I thought, by his 
insistence on the bogus one. 

In the afternoon, having spent the first part of the day impressing 
the jury with his client’s unimpeachable reputation, Mr Mathew 
started by conceding the existence of a conspiracy to frighten Scott, 
and his client’s part in it, and concentrated on denying that it was a 
conspiracy to kill. 

His first target was Newton’s preposterous story of having gone to 
the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington with a coal chisel hidden in a 
bunch of flowers to kill Scott. The chief reason for disbelieving this 
story was that Scott, in evidence, said he never agreed to go to the 
Royal Garden Hotel. Other implausibilities in Newton’s account 
were as easily explained by his incompetence as by the suggestion 
that he was lying, but this one stood out as a lie. Even the Crown had 
insisted that one part of Newton’s story was a lie - where Newton 
insisted that he had only been pretending that his gun had jammed. 

“How can they invite you to accept parts of his evidence and in 
the next breath say that you may think he is lying in another part? 
How are you to know which part to believe?’’ 

It did not require great skill on Mr Mathew’s part to point out that 
Newton was a hopeless witness and his evidence to all intents and 
purposes worthless, but he devoted about twenty minutes to repeating 
this obvious fact, nevertheless. 

Next he suggested -again without evidence having been called on 
the point - that the second £10,000 from Mr Hayward might have 
been spent by Holmes on illicit election expenses by Thorpe. This 
would explain Thorpe’s behaviour and his attempts to persuade Mr 
Dinshaw to hide them: “If these moneys were, in fact, for some 
illicit under counter election expenses, that could explain a great 
deal of this part of the evidence.’’ 

But I did not understand why, once a conspiracy to frighten was 
admitted, Mr Mathew should need to find further explanation for the 
payments - why, in fact, it was necessary to invent further criminal 
activities on the part of Thorpe and Holmes when the payments had 
already been explained. No doubt this passage of the defence, with its 




CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE DEFENCE 


201 


ingenious explanation about the money , belonged to some earlier 
draft before Mr Mathew had decided to admit the existence of a 
conspiracy to frighten. At Minehead he had merely admitted to the 
possibility of a prima facie case on this score. 

By the end of the afternoon , Mr Mathew's client Holmes was not 
cutting such a pretty figure as he had done at the beginning of the day. 
/ found I had to keep pinching myself to avoid the suspicion that Mr 
Mathew did not want his client to win. 

“This case can never have a happy ending, whatever your verdict 
may be, because the scars are too deep and will remain,” he con¬ 
cluded. “But there can be a fast and fair ending to the agonies 
which, albeit brought on by himself, must have been suffered by Mr 
Holmes in recent times.” 

Poor sod , I thought. Surely Mr Mathew could have summoned up 
a little more enthusiasm than that. But then I had thought the same , to 
a lesser degree , at the beginning of Mr Taylor's closing address for the 
prosecution. It was as if neither barrister really wanted to win. But 
perhaps that is the way top-flight barristers are expected to behave. 


Day twenty-five: 14 June 1979 

Mr Williams 

Nobody could level the same charge against Mr Gareth Williams. 
His determination to see his client all right was only matched, it 
would seem, by his determination to assist the prosecution in the 
case against the other three. His was a most remarkable speech, and 
a welcome change from the others. One could not help wondering 
about the extent to which it was inspired by gratitude for Mr 
Taylor’s closing remarks about his client Deakin. To receive an 
accurate impression, one should read it aloud in a musical, high- 
pitched, Welsh lilt, occasionally dropping to a venomous monotone 
when the names of Thorpe or Holmes come up. 

“To begin with, I would like to say that bearing in mind Thorpe’s 
position and connections, the bringing of this prosecution was 
an act of courage and discrimination by the Director of Public 
Prosecutions and prosecuting counsel. This case has upheld the 
rule of law, so it can be seen that even the mighty in this land are in 
the end subject to the same ventilation as the most obscure. 

“You will recall Mr Peter Taylor’s analogy of this trial as a Greek 
or Shakespearian tragedy. They have their tragedies, also in humbler 
places, and if on this evidence you were minded to convict Mr Deakin, it 
would be wrong. It would be a tragedy in a small town ” 


202 


THE LAST WORD 


There was a strong element of class antagonism in the comparison 
between his client and two of the other defendants, Thorpe and 
Holmes, but stronger than this was the disdain to be put into compari¬ 
sons of their honesty, their courage, their manliness . 

“Mr Deakin’s case is not the same as the other defendants, as you 
may recall Mr Taylor saying in his closing speech for the Crown. I 
would say in view of the evidence that you would be perfectly 
entitled and logically consistent to convict the other three defen¬ 
dants and acquit George Deakin. 

“Again, this is not to harm the other defendants if you were 
minded to decide that Mr Holmes deceived, misled and lied, that Mr 
Bessell had been deceived by Mr Thorpe and Mr Holmes on the 
Barnes letter, you would be entitled to think that one or other of 
those defendants used people as if they were marionettes. If Mr 
Holmes got hold of Mr Deakin, is it not a possibility if not a 
probability, that they would use Mr Deakin in the same way?” 

He said the jury might have thought, after hearing the evidence of 
Mr Bessell, that it sometimes disclosed quite disgraceful conduct on 
the part of Thorpe and Holmes, but none of that had anything to do 
with George Deakin. Compared with Thorpe and Holmes, who 
were highly educated, Deakin left school at fifteen and made his 
own way in life. 

“But you don’t need to be highly educated to give your evidence. 
All you need is determination to meet the case against you and, you 
may think, treat the jury and the case with respect... Deakin alone 
treated you with respect and gave you his explanation, although he 
knew he would be cross-examined hard.” 

It was the next passage which marked, so far as I could see, the only 
sign in the whole trial that the jury might be prepared to take an 
independent line from the judge . The judge scowled horribly and 
ground his teeth in the way that elderly gentlemen are allowed to do, 
but I saw three or four members of the jury grin broadly as Mr 
Williams continued in his cheeky, provocative Welsh voice . 

“Mr Deakin does not have powerful friends in high places. Mr 
Deakin does not write letters to the Home Secretary starting 
‘Dear Reggie . . .’ so far as we know. Mr Deakin does not seem to be 
on close and affectionate terms with the Commissioner of the 
Metropolitan Police.” 

Before dealing with the evidence against him, Mr Williams con¬ 
tinued at some length on the subject of how helpful Mr Deakin had 
been to the police, how from the very beginning he had been 
consistent and straightforward in his account: “None of that proves 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE DEFENCE 


203 


that Mr Deakin is not guilty, but it is a pretty good test in his case.” 

Whether consciously or not , Mr Williams was appealing to a strong 
sympathy in the courtroom. Deakin may not have made a very good 
impression in the witness-box , but we were so grateful to have heard 
some evidence from the defence t anything which was not the inter¬ 
minable voices of Messrs Mathew and Carman , that I have no doubt 
the entire press contingent would have voted for Deakin s acquittal 
on these grounds alone. 

On the case against Deakin Mr Williams pointed out - as Mr 
Taylor had done - that it relied pretty well entirely on the evidence 
of Newton. This enabled him to launch himself into a knockabout 
turn on the general subject of chicken-brains: “If it wasn’t so 
desperately serious for Mr Deakin - until you acquit him - it would 
be farcical.” 

Mr Williams made one point of such sublime silliness that I found 
myself beginning to doubt that he was quite as much convinced by his 
client's purity as he seemed. He asked why Newton had not tape- 
recorded the alleged meeting in which he claimed Deakin hired him 
to kill. 

“Don’t you think that greedy little man, if he thought there was 
any benefit in it, would have taped George Deakin? He did not do 
so because Deakin was on the periphery ” 

Deakin may indeed have been on the periphery , but this did not 
prevent people taping him later on. At that stage the greedy little man 
did not know there was any benefit to be gained - it was not until Scott 
started mentioning names to him in Barnstaple. But even this was 
acceptable when compared to the splendid non sequitur with which 
Mr Williams concluded his oration: 

“As I say again, George Deakin was until this trial, just an 
obscure businessman in Wales. He might be despised by some 
people in high places. Someone who could be used, someone of no 
account - a tool. Someone who left school at fifteen. It would be 
wrong to think of convicting him. 

“There is a hymn which people sometimes sing in Wales: 4 Rwyn 
gweld o belly dyddyn dod y which may be translated into English: 4 1 
see from afar off the day which is coming . . .’ 

“Mr Deakin has waited a long time since 1977 and his day will 
come with your verdict of not guilty.” 

If it had been appropriate , I feel that the whole court would have 
burst into applause when Mr Williams sat down. It would not be true 
to say there was scarcely a dry eye. Everybody was laughing. But then 
Mr Williams had been playing it for laughs - confident , perhaps , that 


204 


THE LAST WORD 


his client would get off after Mr Taylor*s generous admission that the 
case against him was perhaps less satisfactory than those against the 
other three defendants . 

But Mr Williams was the only one of the counsel with any apparent 
appeal for the jury , and the only one who did not appear intimidated 
by the judge’s obsessive urge to treat Thorpe as a visiting dignitary . I 
vowed that if ever I found myself before a jury on a criminal charge , / 
would hire Mr Williams as my counsel. 

Mr Cowley 

Mr Cowley had not spoken much in the course of the trial and he did 
not say much now. Perhaps this was in deference to the wishes of his 
client, the loud fellow Le Mesurier. But the case for Le Mesurier 
was fairly straightforward, and did not require any elaborate 
character assassination of Crown witnesses. He had tried a little 
character assassination on the witness Colin Lambert, the old 
soldier who had once worked for Le Mesurier, but accepted the 
judge’s ruling that it was not necessary, and did not return to it now. 

There was Deakin’s evidence of Le Mesurier’s casually mention¬ 
ing a blackmail problem to him on one occasion, he said, but 
otherwise the only evidence to connect his client with the conspiracy 
referred to events after the dog-shooting when the conspiracy was 
at an end. 

“There is not one iota of evidence to connect him with anything in 
between,” said Mr Cowley in his loud, grating voice. The tapes 
showed his client’s lack of knowledge of what was going on. 

“Even Mr Newton said he did not regard Le Mesurier as one of 
the conspirators,” said Mr Cowley. It was odd, I thought, that 
anyone should use Newton as an authority at this late stage. Cer¬ 
tainly, Mr Taylor seemed reluctant to do so. 

“As my learned friend, Mr Gareth Jones [sic] said, you’ve got to 
look at the case in three ways,” he droned. First, there was the 
conspiracy to frighten. Then there was conspiracy to murder. Then 
there was conspiracy to frighten which developed into a conspiracy 
to murder. Mr Cowley hoped that the jury would opt for the first, 
but if they opted for the third there was no evidence against his 
client on that one, either. 

One possible motive for his client’s involvement in the conspiracy 
was gratitude to Mr Holmes for having introduced him to a pools 
winner called Gibbs who invested a large sum of money in Le 
Mesurier’s carpet business. But there was no suggestion that Le 
Mesurier had had any advantage out of Holmes’s help. 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE DEFENCE 


205 


Mr Le Mesurier had an impeccable previous character, 
with an excellent record of six years’ service in the Royal Air 
Force. 

“Is he the sort of man that you think is going to be engaged in a 
scheme to kill somebody he does not know and has never met and 
has nothing to do with?” 

Mr Cowley sat down in a general atmosphere of gloom. The truth 
was that nobody cared very much whether his client was guilty or not. 
The trial had lost much of its interest since the announcement that 
Thorpe would not give evidence. Now we were all impatient for it to 
end and to know the verdict - with perhaps a certain curiosity about 
which side the judge would take on various small matters of interpre¬ 
tation which had been left to his discretion. We all knew pretty well 
what the defence lawyers would say in their closing addresses. We had 
heard Mr Carman make the same , or nearly the same speech twice 
before in the absence of the jury . There was something almost 
approaching a groan when the small, red-faced QCfrom Manchester 
stood up to make his final plea for Thorpe. 

Mr Carman 

In fact, Mr Carman’s posture had subtly altered throughout the 
trial. Where his earlier addresses seemed calculated to appeal to an 
indignation that anybody of such unassailable character as his client 
should be affronted by scurrilous charges from such disreputable 
quarters, Mr Carman’s final address to the jury was essentially an 
appeal for pity. Whatever his client had done (and he continued to 
deny most of it) he had been punished: his career was in ruins, his 
public life was finished. That, at any rate, was the theme of the first 
day’s address. A lion set upon by jackals and hyenas, Thorpe had 
been brought to the ground by them. 

“Privately he is a man with a life that has had more than its fair 
share of grief and agony. Nature so fashioned him that at (he time he 
had the misfortune to meet Norman Scott, he was a man with 
homosexual tendencies . .. You will recognise from the evidence 
that a political life and political future are now irrevocably and 
irreversibly denied to him.” 

Mr Carman gave a sort of blanket absolution to all the “dis¬ 
tinguished names in the public life of this country” who had been 
mentioned. “There is not, I say at once, a shred of credible evidence 
of the slightest impropriety on the part of any one of them, save and 
in so far as innuendo and smear emerge from certain squalid 
witnesses called by the Crown.” 


206 


THE LAST WORD 


The jury had been rightly reminded that all were equal before the 
law. 

“Mr Jeremy Thorpe does not wish any advantage or disadvan¬ 
tage. He is now in your sole charge and he is content with that 
position. But inevitably because of the prominence he has achieved 
in the public life of this country, the case has centred to an extent on 
the life and times of Jeremy Thorpe - his frailties, his weaknesses 
have been exposed remorselessly to the public gaze.” 

Mr Taylor had asked the jury to put aside all sympathy in con¬ 
sidering their verdict - a foolish request, as I remarked at the time. 
Mr Carman now proceeded to cash in: 

“I would respectfully agree with that. . . but although you rightly 
put aside sympathy, you do not divest yourself of proper com¬ 
passion and common humanity in assessing the man. 

“In the political life of this country it is all too evident that Mr 
Thorpe made an important, a significant contribution, a politician, 
the evidence reveals, of distinction with the qualities of ability, 
enthusiasm and dedication. The political scene would be poorer 
without men of that kind and calibre.” 

However, the judgment that “a political life and political future 
are now irreversibly denied to him” was only applicable to the first 
day of Mr Carman’s address. Next morning, having presumably 
thought about the matter overnight, Mr Carman suggested that the 
trial need not necessarily be a complete end to Thorpe’s public life, 
if he was found not guilty. 

“At his age, if your conscience and your oath permit you to say 
not guilty, there may still be a place somewhere in the public life and 
public service of this country for a man of his talents.” 

Still urging the jury to put aside all sympathy while not divesting 
themselves of proper compassion or common humanity, Mr 
Carman reminded them of the untimely death of Thorpe’s first wife 
and paid tribute to his second wife Marion, the former Lady 
Harewood, “whose constant presence in this court speaks elo¬ 
quently for itself.” 

According to the Sunday Times team who interviewed one or more 
members of the jury, this plea had a profound effect on at least one 
juror , who decided that Marion had suffered enough and advanced 
this as a major reason for acquittal. 

Mr Carman ended this passage rather disconcertingly with this 
assessment of Thorpe’s character: “He is human like us all. We 
learn, do we not, that idols sometimes have feet of clay?” 

At this stage of the trial Mr Carman placed less emphasis than 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE DEFENCE 


207 


formerly on the suggestion that Thorpe’s proposals to Mr Bessell - 
if made at all - were made in jocular spirit. 

“He is a man with a sense of humour, capable of great wit, and 
certainly a man to whom comedy was never absent for very long in 
his life. But tragedy has replaced it in large measure.” 

Next Mr Carman moved into the now routine attack on the press, 
prefaced by the stereotyped avowal which I have heard so often on 
the lips of nearly every barrister, judge and politician who has any 
dealing with the press. 

“I shall yield to no one in my admiration of the British press and 
the vital part they play in the administration of justice in this 
country. Very often they assist the administration of justice. 
However . . .” 

There was a small section of the press, said Mr Carman, which fell 
seriously below the high standards the press normally sets itself. It 
included on this occasion the Sunday Telegraph , the Evening News 
and the two journalists Penrose and Courtiour. 

“They never actually emerged into the daylight of the court or the 
witness-box but always lurked in the murky shadows,” said Mr 
Carman, without actually mentioning that it was he who had sent 
them out of the daylight of the court into the murky shadows; or that it 
was he who had neglected to call them as witnesses after the judge had 
all but ordered him to do so. 

They had been present at an interview between Scott and Mr 
Challes; later they had gone out horse-riding with Scott. 

“Scott claimed friendship with one of them in the witness-box. I 
am tempted to say birds of a feather .. ” 

They had also co-operated with Mr Bessell in the preparation of 
their book. 

“There is a role for investigative journalism provided appropriate 
ethical standards are maintained. But where you get, as in this case - 
Mr Taylor’s word for it - ‘tinkering’ with the evidence, I would 
prefer to say ‘fabrication’ of the evidence, by Penrose and 
Courtiour, it shows the length to which these two men were pre¬ 
pared to go to launch this prosecution to their financial advantage.” 

Once again Mr Carman did not see fit to mention that the book by 
Penrose and Courtiour - whose name he still pronounced, on the 
twenty‘fifth day of the trial, as if it had been spelled Courteeay - was 
published before the prosecution was launched. One would like to 
think that Mr Carman f in retrospect, felt ashamed of this disreputable 
passage. In every other way, his closing address was a model of good 
sense and powerful argument. 



208 


THE LAST WORD 


He went on to treat of the need for hard, reliable evidence oh 
which to convict. Scott, Newton and Mr Bessell’s evidence was not 
reliable, Mr Hayward’s and Mr Dinshaw’s was not sufficiently 
incriminating. The proper test to apply was the standard required by 
law for “hard, fast, reliable, safe evidence,” said Mr Carman. This 
was plainly quite a different thing from being certain beyond 
reasonable doubt that a defendant was guilty. 

Mr Carman was at pains to point out -and quite reasonably after 
the immense production which Mr Taylor had made of the issue - 
that Thorpe was not charged with having had a homosexual 
relationship with Scott, although he denied it. 

“May I be permitted to make a general comment on the question 
of Mr Thorpe’s admitted homosexual tendencies at that time? We 
live, I hope, in a civilised society, in a tolerant society. There are 
people who have propensities which we personally may not under¬ 
stand. To them we have to extend tolerance, sympathy and com¬ 
passion. Homosexual activity of any kind was, of course, contrary to 
the criminal law of this country until the late 1960s. Times have 
changed, Parliament, reflecting public opinion, changed the law.”’ 

Homosexuality, he said, was at the periphery of the case, not at 
the heart of it, for a very good reason. 

“Whether there was or was not a homosexual relationship, the 
motive for Mr Thorpe to take part in any unlawful activity against 
Norman Scott was the same, whether the relationship existed or 
not.” This was because Scott constituted a threat either way. It was 
an obvious point to make, and I do not know why Mr Taylor was not 
prepared to accept it. But Mr Carman went on just the same to list 
all the reasons for supposing that the relationship never existed. 
Scott was a liar and a hysteric -“sad, mad or bad or a combination of 
all three, I care not” - who had invented a relationship with Thorpe 
even by his own account before it had existed. 

“There is no doubt that Mr Thorpe formed a degree of affection 
for this young man. He tried to help him . . . and wasn’t Jeremy 
Thorpe being used by this inveterate liar, a social climber and 
scrounger?” The “Bunnies” letter, he said, contained no hard evi¬ 
dence whatever of any physical sexual relationship. 

With great skill, Mr Carman managed to turn Thorpe’s refusal to 
go into the witness-box into a further indictment of the press. 

“Those who stood to gain financially might be the most bitterly 
disappointed of all,” he said. 

“It is a right invested by law that a defendant can stay silent. 
Everyone suspected or accused of a crime is entitled at the begm- 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE DEFENCE 


209 


ning and at every stage until the end of his trial to the right to say: 
‘Ask me no questions. I shall answer none.’ 

“We are not here to entertain the public or provide journalists 
with further copy. We are here for a much more serious purpose, to 
determine whether these charges are made out.” 

A careless or unreflective listener might have inferred that Thorpe s 
refusal to give evidence was inspired by a desire to assist the jury in 
this matter. 

Mr Carman proceeded to the familiar litany of abuse against Mr 
Bessell as a reliable witness on the incitement charge. 

“Mr Bessell may go down at the end of this case as the Judas 
Iscariot of British politics of the twentieth century because he has 
three things in common: one, he seeks to betray a friend; two, he 
seeks to betray him for money; and three, he seeks to betray a man 
who, I submit, is innocent of the charges laid against him. 

“If, by your verdict, you say not guilty, that may be the final 
epitaph of Mr Bessell.” 

Apart from Mr Bessell, the Crown relied on Newton to provide 
evidence of a conspiracy to murder - Newton, whom the Crown 
itself sought to discredit on the question of what happened that 
night on Porlock Moor. 

Mr Carman said he was tempted to reopen the Christmas 
pantomime of Newton’s evidence about the coal chisel and the 
bouquet of flowers, but he would resist the temptation and call 
half time on his speech. The trial adjourned. 


Day twenty-six: 15 June 1979 

Mr Carman concluded 

On the last day of his closing address, Mr Carman struck a more 
tentative note than before. His speech lacked any great coherence, 
being more a collection of unrelated points which he now realised, 
as an afterthought, might be troubling the jury. Having deliberately 
left it open for the jury to decide either way whether there had been 
a homosexual relationship or not, he now examined what was meant 
by guilt. This was not so much a matter of whether the defendants 
had done the things of which they were accused, but of whether the 
prosecution had proved they had done it to the very strict standard 
of proof required by law. The law was a wonderful thing to rattle at 
the jury because, if they wanted to obey it, they would have to 
accept what it was from their elders and betters. 

“You must not suppose that a not guilty verdict is some sort of 


210 


THE LAST WORD 


certificate of innocence awarded by the jury. In law, it means that 
the prosecution has failed to make out the case.” 

In other words, acquittal required no more than an extended 
Bessell-bash. But first Mr Carman exerted himself to put the most 
favourable light possible on his own admission that Thorpe had not 
asked Mr Maudling, the Home Secretary, or Sir John Waldron, the 
Metropolitan Commissioner, to investigate Scott’s allegations. Was 
it not remarkable enough, he asked blithely, that Thorpe had been 
prepared to approach Maudling and Waldron at all? The whole 
correspondence reflected more to Thorpe’s credit than to his dis¬ 
credit, he suggested. 

Next he dealt with Holmes’s purchase of Scott’s letters for 
£2,500. 

“It has not been satisfactorily proved that the letters were pur¬ 
chased with Mr Thorpe’s knowledge. And if he did that without 
Jeremy Thorpe’s knowledge, that may be the key to whether he did 
anything else without Jeremy Thorpe’s knowledge.” 

This was the first time Mr Carman had put forward the “Thomas a 
Becket” explanation suggested by Newton in a tape earlier on. The 
objection to it, of course, was that Henry II did not send large sums of 
money to the four knights after Becket*s murder to reimburse them 
for any incidental expenses. Mr Carman addressed himself next to 
the problem of the £20,000 which Thorpe had arranged to be sent 
to Holmes, in two batches, about this time. 

On this point, Mr Carman’s remarks added up to a resounding 
“No comment.” He was not even prepared to suggest, as Mr 
Mathew had suggested, that the money had been used for illicit 
election purposes. The prosecution, said Mr Carman, claimed that 
the money, although requested for election expenses, had been 
used to finance the conspiracy. 

“I’m not going to solve for you the mystery of this money. You 
can spend a long time trying to work it out, and come up with six 
different answers. The Crown has to prove it is referable to guilt. 
That is one possibility, but there are many others the prosecution 
has not explored.” 

For a moment, it seemed as if Mr Carman was conceding the point. 
One admired his nerve, but how could he hope to get away with 
suggesting that it was the prosecution’s job, rather than the defence’s, 
to suggest alternative ways for the money to have been spent? To a lay 
observer this seemed incredible, but it is apparently established in 
legal practice. He must have known that the judge was going to let him 
get away with what seemed to be semantic jugglery, treating words 



CLOSING ADDRESSES: THE DEFENCE 


211 


like “proof" and “guilt" as if they were somehow removed, for legal 
purposes, from the normal processes of human reasoning. Another 
judge might well have pointed out that the fact of these payments by 
Thorpe to Holmes at a time when Holmes was financing the con¬ 
spiracy might not have provided conclusive proof in itself but cer¬ 
tainly established some corroborative probability (in default of any 
other explanation) that Thorpe was helping to finance the conspiracy. 
It seemed a dangerous gamble for Mr Carman to take when the only 
solid benefit would be to save Thorpe from admitting to illicit election 
activities. By any reckoning, it was an extraordinarily cavalier way to 
dismiss one of the prosecution s more solid pieces of corroborative 
evidence. 

After this Mr Carman reverted to the familiar noises of a ritual 
Bessell-bash. Then a brief reference to Thorpe’s treatment of Mr 
Dinshaw, about which Mr Taylor had grown so indignant. This 
momentary lapse of good manners - when Thorpe had threatened 
Mr Dinshaw with exportation if he revealed how he had sent the 
money to Holmes on Thorpe’s instructions - was to be explained by 
the fact that Thorpe was “clearly desperately worried and con¬ 
cerned’’ about the money at that time. Mr Carman was not, of 
course, going to explain why Thorpe was desperately worried and 
concerned. We might spend a long time time trying to solve the 
mystery and come up with six different answers . . . 

“I don’t run away from that. That is regrettable,” said Mr 
Carman. 

Finally, he retracted his suggestion of the day before that 
Thorpe’s political career was irrevocably finished. There may still 
be a place somewhere .. . 

“This case has been fought and considered against the backcloth 
of British politics. It is important to remind you of your rights in this 
case. 

“You have the right as citizens to vote in elections. But you have a 
much more important right and a much greater responsibility to 
vote guilty or not guilty. Mr Thorpe has spent twenty years in British 
politics and obtained thousands and thousands of votes in his 
favour. Now the most precious twelve votes of all come from you. In 
accordance with your conscience, I say to you, on behalf of Jeremy 
Thorpe this prosecution has not been made out. Let this pros¬ 
ecution fold its tent and quietly creep away.” 

That ended the defence of Jeremy Thorpe. The last sentence was in 
continuation of an extended metaphor first introduced by Mr Taylor, 
which I have not bothered to pursue. For all his qualified suggestion 




212 


THE LAST WORD 


that Thorpe might one day return to public service , Mr Carman 
ended on a much less strident note than we had heard from him at the 
beginning of the trial . “I say to you on behalf of Jeremy Thorpe , this 
prosecution has not been made out” is not quite such a rabble- 
rousing cry as “Jeremy Thorpe is innocent.” 

The judge adjourned the trial until Monday, 18 June when, he 
said, “we will all have a clean start.” The weekend also gave him an 
opportunity to compose his summing up. This was to run for two 
days, with a few sentences added on the Wednesday. Pondering the 
matter myself during this interlude, I drew up what seemed the 
direction which any summing up must take. It seemed to me that, 
with the traditional cautions about uncorroborated evidence from 
accomplices and the value to be given to the concept of “reasonable 
doubt,” there was no need for the summing up to take more than 
twenty minutes. That, in my experience, is the longest period which 
most people are prepared to spend concentrating on the words of a 
single speaker. What the judge actually said in his summing up may 
be found in Chapter 16. Here, in the interlude provided by a June 
weekend, is my own. 



15 

Interlude 


16 and 17 June 1979 

A layman's summary of the evidence 

The dog is dead. That is the first unchallenged fact. The second is 
that there has been a criminal conspiracy to harm Scott. The third is 
that Thorpe had a motive for joining such a conspiracy. 

Once those three unchallenged facts are established, we may 
disregard the details of Scott’s evidence as irrelevant. It does not 
matter if he was buggered by Thorpe, or how often, if he is truthful 
or if he is a liar. The motive exists, and that is the only relevance. 

Before considering whether the conspiracy was to murder or to 
frighten I would suggest the jury first consider whether all four were 
members of a criminal conspiracy. Next they should decide whether 
it was a conspiracy to frighten or to kill. If it was a conspiracy to 
frighten, the indictment fails, but if the jury decide there was a 
conspiracy to murder, they should next ask themselves whether it 
was always a conspiracy to murder, or whether it became one at a 
later stage of the conspiracy. If it became a conspiracy to murder at a 
later stage, the jury should finally ask themselves whether all the 
four defendants were still members of this conspiracy. 

On the first point, of whether all four defendants were members 
of the conspiracy to harm Scott, we have Mr Mathew’s admission, 
on behalf of his client, that Holmes was part of such a conspiracy. 
We have Deakin’s evidence in the witness-box that he put Newton 
in touch with Holmes for the purpose of advancing the conspiracy, 
which makes him a member of it, although the extent of his 
involvement thereafter is questioned. We have Deakin’s evidence, 
which was unchallenged by Mr Cowley, that Le Mesurier intro¬ 
duced him to Holmes for the purpose of assisting the conspiracy. 
This would make him a member of it, although once again the 
extent of his subsequent involvement is disputed. 

Which only leaves Thorpe. Circumstantially, we can see that he 
had a motive for belonging to such a conspiracy, that the conspiracy 
was entirely concocted for his benefit, and that at some time after 


214 


THE LAST WORD 


Holmes started paying for the conspiracy, he arranged for large 
sums of money to be paid to Holmes. That is unchallenged. We also 
have the direct evidence of Mr Bessell, who has been represented by 
the defences as a liar and scoundrel, inspired by revenge. Mr 
Bessell’s evidence is unequivocal, if it is believed. The jury must ask 
themselves whether Mr Bessell is telling the truth or whether he is 
lying. The defence have suggested that he is lying for the purpose of 
pecuniary advantage. That he will receive pecuniary advantage if he 
is believed is not disputed. The jury might reflect that he composed 
his aide-memoire setting out the substance of his evidence against 
Thorpe in 1976 before the second police enquiry had started. If his 
motive was primarily commercial, he must have reckoned to con¬ 
coct this false accusation which the defence have described as being 
of a wild and implausible nature against a public figure of 
unblemished reputation, persuade the police to prosecute and a 
court to convict and then collect his money. The jury must decide 
whether the likelihood of this is such as to create a reasonable doubt 
in their minds. 

On the question of whether the conspiracy was one to murder or 
one to frighten, we have the unequivocal evidence of Newton that 
he was hired by Holmes and Deakin to kill Scott, but the jury may 
well decide that the evidence of Newton should be treated with the 
utmost suspicion. On the fact of Newton’s being an accomplice, 
which is unchallenged, the jury should require corroboration of his 
evidence; on the fact of his having perjured himself at Exeter, which 
is agreed, they should treat his account with care; on the fact of his 
having misled this court about his experiences in America on evi¬ 
dence which, although untested, was supplied by the prosecution to 
the defence, they should treat anything he says with caution; on the 
fact that the prosecution itself claims he is lying on oath in his 
account of the scene on Porlock Moor - whether his gun jammed or 
not - they might reasonably decide to treat his evidence as com¬ 
pletely worthless. The only solid fact to emerge from his period in 
the witness-box may be that he is an unprincipled and mercenary 
figure who was hired by Holmes to harm Scott, but prosecution and 
defence (for Holmes) both agree that Newton was lying when he 
said he pretended that his gun jammed. If the jury agree, they may 
decide that this provides powerful circumstantial reason for accept¬ 
ing that his intention was to kill, and he is lying to save face, however 
belatedly. 

Further circumstantial support for this comes from the fact that 
many other methods of silencing Scott had been tried - including 


INTERLUDE 


215 


frightening him - and all had failed. But the only direct evidence on 
this point comes from Mr Bessell. His evidence, again, is un¬ 
equivocal. Once again, the jury must decide whether Mr Bessell is 
telling diabolical lies for the purpose of gain or revenge, or whether 
he is telling the truth. On the point of whether the conspiracy was to 
murder or to cause lesser harm the jury might ask themselves 
whether it has been established that there was less money to be 
gained by revealing the plot by a distinguished politician to intimi¬ 
date and put in terror - if it was true - than there was to be made by 
revealing a plot to murder, if it was false. 

What the jury must decide is whether the four defendants did 
what they are accused of doing, or whether they did not. If they have 
doubt, and it is reasonable doubt, they must acquit. The crime of 
which the four defendants are accused is a vicious and cowardly one, 
and the jury must not for a moment entertain the thought that it was 
justified because Scott had proved himself so vexatious a threat to 
Thorpe’s political career, or threatened his domestic tranquillity. If 
the jury are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the defen¬ 
dants are guilty - which means no more and no less than that they 
did what they are accused of doing - then they must convict, and 
convict in the happy knowledge that they are doing their duty as 
citizens in face of a conspiracy which would be made worse, not 
better, by the fact that its aim might have been to protect a figure in 
political life whom large numbers of people trusted for his apparent 
honesty. 

On the question of whether the conspiracy started as a plot to 
frighten and later became a plot to murder, we have only the 
evidence of Deakin to suggest that this might be the case, but we 
have only the evidence of Newton to suggest that it is not. The other 
three defendants have chosen not to speak, as it is their perfect right 
to do. This should not be seen as necessarily indicating guilt, but it 
would be quite wrong for the jury to try and guess what they would 
have said if they had given evidence. They have chosen this course 
of action with its advantage to them, that they do not have to face 
cross-examination, and its disadvantage, that we shall never know 
what alternative version of events they might have proposed, had 
they chosen to do so. 

On the question of whether to prefer Deakin’s or Newton’s word 
for the nature of the conspiracy at its outset, the jury might bear in 
mind that Newton has been shown - and accepted by the prosecu¬ 
tion - to be an unreliable witness, whereas Deakin’s account had 
been consistent throughout. The prosecution itself invited the jury 



216 


THE LAST WORD 


to consider whether the case against Deakin might be less satisfac¬ 
tory than it is against the other defendants. If the jury feel that the 
circumstances create reasonable doubt in the case of Mr Deakin, 
they should acquit. 

Where Holmes and Thorpe are concerned, this suggestion has 
not been advanced. Holmes was plainly a member of the conspiracy 
to frighten at every stage, by his counsel’s own admission, and we 
have the evidence of Mr Bessell, with which I have already dealt, 
that Thorpe’s intention throughout was to apply the final solution. If 
the possibility of a changing conspiracy is applied to Le Mesurier, 
we have against it the evidence of Mr Colin Lambert, who described 
Le Mesurier as talking of a conspiracy to shoot Scott, and the 
circumstantial fact, which is unchallenged, of Le Mesurier having 
arranged Newton’s payment at the end of the day. Le Mesurier has 
chosen not to give evidence, and the jury must not try to guess at 
what he would have said if he had, but must decide on the evidence 
before them whether or not Le Mesurier played his part in a 
conspiracy to kill Scott. 

So on the conspiracy charge, I suggest the jury first decide 
whether all four defendants were members of the agreed conspiracy 
to harm Scott; then whether it was, in fact, a conspiracy to murder, 
rather than frighten him; finally whether the conspiracy might have 
changed course at some stage from one to the other and, if so, 
whether all four followed it on its course to an attempted murder. 

On the incitement charge against Thorpe we have only the uncor¬ 
roborated evidence of Mr Bessell. If Mr Bessell is lying, it has been 
suggested that this might be for pecuniary advantage but it might 
also be out of revenge because Thorpe exposed his disreputable 
business activities to the Sunday Times . Until that moment, Mr 
Bessell had been a supporter of Thorpe, by his own account pre¬ 
pared to lie and cover up for him. Revenge may be a motive for 
lying, it may also be a motive for telling the truth. If Thorpe had 
chosen to give evidence, the jury could have decided which they 
believed. As it is, they can only decide whether or not they believe 
Mr Bessell. Mr Carman suggested as one reason for Thorpe’s 
decision not to give evidence that there is no case for him to answer. 
That is a matter which is exclusively for the jury to decide. 



16 

The Judge’s Summing Up 


Day twenty-seven: 18 June 1979 

Sir Joseph Cantley OBE, the Honourable Mr Justice Cantley 
Defendants' good reputation 

“This is a very serious charge and a rather bizarre and surprising 
case. It is right for you to pause and consider whether it is likely that 
such persons would do the things these persons are said to have 
done. But if, however unlikely you would otherwise have thought, 
you are ultimately convinced by the evidence that they did, then, 
however sadly, you will have to convict. 

“The four accused are men of hitherto unblemished reputation. 
Mr Thorpe is a Privy Councillor, a former leader of the Liberal 
Party and a national figure with a very distinguished public record. 

“What is the effect of the defendants’ character in a criminal 
trial? Normally it has its most important effect when the defendant 
goes into the witness-box and gives evidence, because the jury is 
then reminded that they have been listening to the evidence of a 
man of good character, and give it the attention which a man of good 
character deserves . . . 

“You would pay more attention to the evidence of a bishop than a 
burglar . . . 

“In this case, three of the accused have not gone into the 
witness-box. This does not mean that their good character should be 
ignored . . 

In discussing the “hitherto unblemished reputation" of the four 
defendants, the judge, who had only heard evidence of good charac¬ 
ter on two of them from the police, would not have been permitted to 
mention that one had a criminal record; or that another's business 
activities had been severely criticised by a Department of Trade 
enquiry. Nor did he suggest at this stage that various revelations in the 
course of the trial - unexplained by the defendants - might have 
produced a blemish or two: that Thorpe had lied in a police statement 
about £20,000 solicited under false pretences from Hayward, that 




218 


THE LAST WORD 


Holmes had lied to the police when he claimed never to have met 
Newton , had engaged in a criminal conspiracy to harm Scott; that 
Deakin had, on his own admission , been part of that conspiracy, 
albeit a small one; that Le Mesurier had been part of that conspiracy 
and had also, by agreeing to hand over the money to Newton , 
conspired to pervert the course of justice. None of these considera¬ 
tions was to be held against the “hitherto unblemished reputation ” of 
the four defendants. 


Refusal to give evidence no sign of guilt 

The judge next discussed the effect of not going into the witness- 
box. 

“This is a neutral fact. It adds nothing to the prosecution’s case 
and adds nothing to the defence. The burden of proof is on the 
prosecution and if the evidence called by the prosecution does not, 
by itself, make the jury feel sure that the charge has been proved, 
the defendant is entitled to be acquitted .. . 

“You must not speculate on the reason why the defendants have 
decided not to give evidence. There might be many reasons other 
than guilt for not giving evidence. You must not say, on looking at 
the evidence, that you would have had some doubt except that the 
defendant has not gone into the witness-box. 

“That is the wrong approach. If members of the jury have a 
reasonable doubt, the prosecution has failed to prove its case and 
you should acquit.” 


Further reasons for acquitting the defendants 
Next, he dealt with the nature of a conspiracy. 

“If, for example, Mr Le Mesurier joined what he thought was a 
conspiracy to frighten somebody and then found out in October 
1975 that the real object was murder, the mere fact he helped after 
that to hush it up would not make him a member of the conspiracy to 
murder. 

“It would make him a member of another conspiracy of which he 
is not charged - that would be a conspiracy to defeat justice . .. 

“A conspiracy to frighten somebody is a criminal conspiracy, but 
the defendants are not charged with that. You have to consider only 
whether they conspired to murder somebody. Unless you are sure 
that was the object of the conspiracy, they must all be acquitted on 
the first count.” 



THE J UDGE'S SUMMING UP 


219 


Prosecution evidence tainted 

The judge said he would now deal with the tainting of evidence. 

“You have seen it illustrated in this case. It has happened: the 
pursuit not of justice but of profit has tampered with the quality of 
important evidence. I could not help thinking at one point that if 
there had been really enterprising and competitive media in those 
days, Judas Iscariot might have thought the thirty pieces of silver the 
least of his rewards.” 

The relevance of this passage might seem obscure, until one 
remembers that Mr Carman, in a flight of rhetoric, had described Mr 
Bessell as the “Judas Iscariot of British politics 

What should the jury do when they find a witness has a financial 
interest of his own which might tempt him to tell lies? 

“We can only play for safety ... we must look at his evidence 
with distrust if that is the conclusion we have come to about him and 
treat it as dangerous to act upon his evidence unless we find good 
reasons elsewhere to believe it to be true. 

“We should look for some untainted evidence from elsewhere 
which tends to confirm what he is saying.” 

This passage must have come as the cruellest blow to the police and 
prosecution side . The judge was effectively instructing the jury to 
disregard Mr BesselVs evidence unless it was corroborated, just as if 
Mr Bessell had been an accomplice, although, as he later admitted, 
Mr Bessell was not an accomplice. With that instruction, he destroyed 
three-quarters of the Crown case against Thorpe - if the jury heeded 
him. As this was still the first half-hour of the summing up, there 
seemed every possibility that the jury were taking it in and would 
remember it. 

The reasons for the Sunday Telegraph's “double your money ” 
contract with Mr Bessell have been adequately explained. Just as the 
libel laws had prevented any newspaper from printing Mr BesselVs 
story before the trial, so they would prevent it afterwards in the event 
of an acquittal. The Sunday Telegraph in typical penny-pinching 
way, was merely introducing an insurance that it would not spend too 
much money on an unprintable story. This quirk of the British libel 
laws was not only going to preserve Thorpe's unblemished reputation 
before conviction, it was also going to make conviction virtually 
impossible. 

Bad or immoral behaviour not relevant 

The judge referred to a reminder in Mr Carman’s closing address to 
the jury that this was not a “court of morals.” 


220 


THE LAST WORD 


“I’m not quite sure what a court of morals is, but this is not one of 
those . . . The fact that a man may have behaved badly is no reason 
why he should be convicted of another offence with which he is not 
charged.” 

Peter Bessell: humbug with a record 

The judge now embarked on a review of the evidence which he said 
he hoped would be less coloured than the accounts they had been 
hearing up to now. First he would deal with Mr Bessell’s evidence. 

“You will have seen that Mr Bessell is plainly a very intelligent, 
very articulate man. He must have impressed the electors of 
Cornwall very much. He told us he was a lay preacher at the same 
time as being, as he put it, sexually promiscuous. And therefore a 
humbug 

The only evidence on the incitement charge was that given by 
Bessell of a conversation in the House of Commons. But when he 
told the story to Penrose and Courtiour three years earlier, he had 
said it took place somewhere else. However, if the jury accepted the 
evidence and came to the conclusion that Thorpe was serious, that 
would be incitement to murder. 

Various minor parts of Mr Bessell’s evidence were corroborated, 
said the judge, but these did not bear on what Thorpe was alleged to 
have said on this occasion. In fact none of Mr Bessell’s incriminating 
allegations was corroborated. According to Mr Bessell, Holmes 
admitted to him that he had hired the pilot to kill Scott, but tape- 
recordings made after this alleged admission were of “cordial con¬ 
versations.” In one curious passage, he said, Mr Bessell said of 
Holmes that he was a “good and faithful servant to our friend,” 
going on to describe him as a “respectable private citizen.” 

“I say that was a curious moment, to say of a man who has told 
you he is trying to murder someone - ‘you are after all a respectable 
private citizen.’ Either it goes against Mr Bessell’s credibility or it 
shows that he is broadminded to an unusual extent.” 

I do not know whether the judge was being deliberately obtuse 
here, or whether he had genuinely not understood the point of Mr 
BesselVs remark that Holmes was, after all, a respectable private 
citizen . The point was surely that Holmes, as a man of unblemished 
reputation, was most unlikely to be suspected of murdering any male 
models, and therefore had a right not to have his home invaded by the 
press; moreover, Holmes was a private citizen in a sense that Mr 
Bessell was not, having been an MP . It was surely no odder that Mr 
Bessell should describe Holmes as a respectable private citizen at that 



THE JUDGE’S SUMMING UP 


221 


time than that the judge should describe him as a man of unblemished 
reputation after hearing Holmes's own counsel agree that he had been 
part of a criminal conspiracy to put Scott in terror. But it was an extra 
drop of bat's blood in the cauldron. 

After lunch, the judge returned to the attack. Mr Bessell had 
“quite a record,” he said, before detailing some of the attacks which 
had been made on him. Later, he referred to Bessell’s current 
earnings, which had been put at £2,500 a year. 

“I do not know how that compares with the national average 
wage, but I would have thought it was under average, and certainly 
would not be accepted pay at British Leyland.” 

The purpose of this observation was not clear. If the judge intended 
to suggest that Mr Bessell was desperate for money , it should have 
been mentioned that Mr Bessell also had a rich wife , or at any rate a 
rich father-in-law. 

Next the judge turned to consider whether Mr Bessell’s evidence 
might have been affected by his dealings with Barrie Penrose and 
Roger Courtiour. He did not seem particularly impressed by Mr 
Mathew’s and Mr Carman’s onslaughts on the good name of the two 
journalists. 

“They are mystery men as far as we are concerned. Every time Mr 
Carman has mentioned them you could detect the faint smell of 
brimstone. Both Mr Carman and Mr Mathew referred in rather 
a menacing way to the fact that neither has appeared in the 
witness-box. 

“It is not their fault. I excluded the pair from court during some of 
the evidence - no doubt to their commercial dismay - because I had 
been told they might be giving evidence. We don’t know what they 
could have said about themselves if someone had given them the 
opportunity. And we don’t to this day know how to pronounce the 
name of the junior partner, Mr Courtiour.” 

It was heartwarming to learn that the judge had no hard feelings 
towards the pair after they had been hustled out of court, reviled and 
treated as a general football between defence counsel and the judge 
for nearly six weeks. 

Next the judge discussed Mr Bessell’s “deplorable contract” with 
the Sunday Telegraph , which, he said, he mentioned only to give it 
unfavourable publicity. Fortunately for the Sunday Telegraph , he 
said, the “double your money” agreement was reached only after 
Mr Bessell’s evidence had been finalised - or “crystallised” - in his 
aide-memoire , otherwise, “I should be considering what further 
action should have been taken by me when this case was over.” 


222 


THE LAST WORD 


But if this consideration let the Sunday Telegraph off the worst of 
its hooks , it did not appear to have much effect on the judge’s estimate 
of Mr Bessell’s evidence. A few minutes earlier, he had said: 

“So although his evidence may have crystallised by the time of the 
aide-memoire in that it hasn’t varied since then it is said, there is 
some evidence that he may have had publication of an adequately 
sensational book in mind before the aide-memoire came.” 

lam not sure to what evidence the judge was referring. It could only 
have come from Mr Bessell , since neither Penrose nor Courtiour had 
spoken , and search Mr Bessell’s evidence as hard as I can I find no 
reference to any intention to write an “adequately sensational book” 
before he began work on the aide-memoire. The judge was deter¬ 
mined that Mr Bessell’s evidence should be given minimum weighty 
but this drop of bat’s blood would appear to be no more than a bit of 
dirt thrown in. 

The judge then turned to the Hetherington incident, where Mr 
Bessell had got a date wrong, and suggested this implied the whole 
story was a lie. For reasons best known to himself, he chose to take a 
surprisingly lenient view of this “lie.” 

“These are matters which question Mr Bessell’s credibility, but 
the fact that a man tells a lie in a case does not mean he is telling lies 
all the time. That is the snakes and ladders approach to litigation. 
You cannot say a witness is disqualified and down the snake he goes 
if he is caught out in one lie. 

“If you think that before he even crystallised his evidence he was 
actuated by a wish to make as much money as he could by publishing 
a book, then you should view his evidence with suspicion and be 
slow to act on it unless it is supported by other evidence.” 

In fact there was no evidence that the Hetherington story was a lie , 
merely that Mr Bessell had got a date wrong. The prosecution might 
have taken heart from the fact that here the judge was merely urging 
the jury to view Mr Bessell’s evidence with suspicion and be slow to 
act on it without corroboration whereas at the beginning of his 
summing up he had said it would be dangerous to act on it without 
corroboration. But I doubt whether Mr Taylor noticed. 

Next the judge went through all those parts of Mr Bessell’s 
evidence which were corroborated, pointing out that all the most 
important parts rested on Mr Bessell’s word alone. After this pro¬ 
tracted and damaging list the judge slipped in a little sentence which , if 
the jury were extremely alert , might seem to contradict everything he 
had said about Mr Bessell’s evidence earlier: 

“When I say you must look at Bessell’s evidence with suspicion it 


THE JUDGE'S SUMMING UP 


223 


does not mean you cannot believe it if there is no corroboration.” 

One may doubt whether anybody paid any attention to this, after 
he had stated the opposite so often and so forcibly. But it is there, on 
the record, in case anybody accuses him of not having said it. 

The judge then turned to Mr Bessell’s evidence against Mr 
Holmes. Mr Bessell had said that Holmes admitted to him that he 
had hired Newton to kill Scott. “But whether there is any evidence 
capable of corroborating that I will deal with later.” 

Back to the need for corroboration. That ended the judge's attack 
on Mr Bessell for the day. It had been as deliberate and as prolonged a 
destruction of one witness as anyone was likely to hear. Whether it 
was justified, or whether it was an abuse of judicial power, is some¬ 
thing which would have to be decided between Joseph Cantley and 
his Maker. No doubt the tenor and direction of the judge's summing 
up represented his honest opinion of the witness, but without Mr 
Bessell the Crown had no case on the charge of conspiracy or 
incitement to murder. The only other substantial witness on the first 
point was Newton, whose evidence might reasonably be regarded as 
worthless by any conscientious jury. And there was no other witness 
of any sort on the second. All that remained to be seen was whether 
the jury would follow the judge's direction. 

Norman Scott: liar, fraud, sponger, crook 

The judge next turned to Scott’s evidence. It was not important 
whether Norman Scott had a homosexual relationship with Thorpe 
or not, as the judge pointed out. The motive was there in either case. 
In fact the disputed part of Scott’s evidence was entirely irrelevant. 
But that did not stop the judge entering with relish into the task of 
destroying him and so, obliquely, discrediting the prosecution case. 

“I now turn to the evidence of Mr Norman Scott. You will 
remember him well - a hysterical, warped personality, accomplished 
sponger and very skilful at exciting and exploiting sympathy.” 

On the “Bunnies” letter of February 1962 (it was dated 1961, 
which would have made Scott a minor at the time of the alleged 
offence, but Mr Taylor accepted that this might have been in error 
for 1962) the judge had this to say: 

“All I can say is that this is capable of corroborating some 
homosexual relationship between the two - but not necessarily. It is 
for the jury to decide whether or not. You may take a different view 
... It is capable of corroborating a homosexual relationship. I do 
not mean that it necessarily corroborates buggery, which is what is 
alleged to have happened. A man may write to a girl he liked and say 



224 


THE LAST WORD 


‘I miss you,’ but that would not be capable of suggesting that they 
had had sexual intercourse. It indicates affection, perhaps, but we 
must not assume that affection necessarily implies buggery, no more 
than a letter to a girl you hope to see or perhaps marry is able to 
imply sexual intercourse. ‘I miss you’ - I would not write that to a 
man, but I might have written something like that to a girl.” 

After mentioning Scott’s “very nasty” letter to Thorpe’s mother 
and various other aspects of his evidence, which he tended to 
discount in so far as they related to the charges before the court, the 
judge turned to the general question of Scott’s credibility. He 
pointed out that while Scott was in a psychiatric clinic {I think he got 
this slightly wrong - it was while Scott was staying with a couple in 
Enstone, Oxfordshire , between visits to the clinic ) having had only three 
minutes’ conversation with Thorpe at Vatefs stables, he was boasting 
that he had had a homosexual relationship with Thorpe. Scott now 
admitted there was no truth in this, but “if he w r as prepared to say that 
when there was no foundation for it, then to what extent can you rely at 
any rate on the full detail of what he is saying?” 

What was the relevance of the alleged relationship? 

“The only relevance to our case is whether or not Mr Thorpe had 
a motive for wanting Scott to disappear. That is all. We are not here 
to decide whether he had a homosexual relationship or not. Even if 
you conclude there was no homosexual relationship of the nature 
that Mr Scott described, it would not be an end to the matter. It is 
not decisive whether there was a relationship or not. It is not one of 
the things we have to decide. We have to decide, looking at the 
whole of the evidence, if Mr Thorpe had a motive which would 
really go so far as to impel him to the conspiracy for getting rid of 
Scott.” 

From this lofty and significant point, the judge turned to the lies 
and sexual adventures of Norman Scott. He had pretended to be a 
relative of Lord Eldon. “He has told many lies to improve his 
image.” He had told many amazing lies. He knew Thorpe had 
homosexual tendencies, and according to Mr Carman, went to the 
House of Commons hoping to make something out of these tenden¬ 
cies. He had lived with a rich homosexual and a widow’. He agreed 
that he had fraudulently pledged other people’s credit ( was this a 
reference to his buying a shirt on Thorpe’s account?) and w f as at one 
time suspected of stealing silver from a house where he was living in 
Dublin although he denied this. 

“He is a crook,” said the judge. 

Mr Scott also admitted to stealing letters from Vater. 


THE JUDGE S SUMMING UP 


225 


“He said they were from Mr Thorpe,” said the judge. “We have 
not seen them, but let’s assume they were. What did he keep them 
for? Why was he upset when he lost them and do you agree with Mr 
Bessell that he is not a blackmailer? 

“He is a fraud. He is a sponger. He is a whiner. He is a parasite. 

“But of course, he could still be telling the truth. It is a question of 
belief.” 

In case the jury doubted this last sentence, the judge repeated it: 
“You must not think that because I am not concealing my opinion of 
Mr Scott I am suggesting that you should not believe him. That is 
not for me. I am not expressing any opinion.” 

If the jury believed that the judge was not expressing any opinion 
they would have believed anything. 

Finally, the judge turned to the money that Scott had made or 
might be going to make from the case, although Scott had denied 
that he was going ahead with his book on the subject. If Scott was 
believed, he said, it proved that there was a homosexual relation¬ 
ship: “It proves he successfully exploited the relationship for some 
time and it proves, I suggest, his hatred of Mr Thorpe.” It also 
proved, said the judge, that he moved into Thorpe’s constituency 
before Christmas 1973, where he drank in local pubs and talked of 
his relationship with Thorpe - as the prosecution suggested present¬ 
ing a constant danger to Thorpe’s reputation. 

The judge had just turned to Newton’s evidence, and was point¬ 
ing out how dangerous it was to convict on the uncorroborated 
evidence of an accomplice, when he decided it was time to adjourn 
for the day. 


Day twenty-eight: 19 June 1979 

Mr Justice Cantley continued 
Newton: accomplice , perjurer and chump 

It was on the second day of his summing up that the judge warmed 
to the humorous possibilities of the narrative. This was especially 
apparent after lunch, when it was sometimes difficult to follow the 
drift of his argument through the private chuckles and wheezing 
noises which accompanied his observations. A summary may give a 
wrong impression of whatever emphasis the judge may have 
intended, but this intention was by no means clear. At one point he 
seemed to be urging the jury to decide that it was, indeed, a 
conspiracy to kill - subject to the reservation that if they had the 
slightest reasonable doubt on this score they should acquit all four 



226 


THE LAST WORD 


defendants - at the next he seemed to be urging them that the 
evidence against each of the four individually was too flimsy and 
disreputable to entertain. From the muddle of his observations 
three important directions remained: that disreputable or tainted 
evidence created doubt, that if they had the slightest doubt 
they should acquit, that the only evidence in this case which 
was neither disreputable nor tainted was peripheral to the main 
charges. 

First he took the jury through Newton’s evidence. What had 
struck the judge most about Newton was his extraordinary incom¬ 
petence, whether as frightener or murderer. 

After the Royal Garden Hotel fiasco, with coal chisel and bunch 
of flowers, Newton hired a bright yellow car to accost Scott in 
Barnstaple, where it drew so much attention that one woman took 
its number. He then offered to buy Scott’s letters, without either the 
money or authority to do so. This again showed Newton as a “highly 
incompetent performer with all his self-advertisement.’’ 

“He did not think things through very carefully,” commented the 
judge. 

Newton claimed he planned to try and frighten Scott into being a 
bundle of nerves. He thought of a plan to lure him into a lonely place 
and pretend to shoot him. He claimed the idea to frighten was his 
alone. He would pretend the gun had jammed. When he went to 
carry it out he picked up his girl-friend’s car to take Scott on to 
Exmoor. “But what a chump the man is. To frighten or to murder- 
that is no way to go about it!” 

The judge next listed four reasons for believing the gun had 
genuinely jammed, despite Newton’s claim that he was only pre¬ 
tending: a firearms expert testified that it had jammed four times in 
twenty-seven shots when he tested it; the man who supplied the gun 
told the court that Newton had complained of the jamming; David 
Miller said he saw a round jammed under the firing pin on the night 
of the shooting; Newton, at Exeter, had said the gun jammed, along 
with his fabricated story of having been blackmailed. 

“The relevance of that for the purposes of this case is that he is 
capable of inventing an entirely false story.” 

The judge quite plainly thought the gun had jammed, and was not 
prepared to shirk the implication of this. 

After Newton’s release from prison he received £5,000 in cash 
from Le Mesurier, who also gave him an air ticket to Rhodesia 
where he was trying to find a job. Newton said he took tapes in order 
to protect himself, but the judge suggested they would also corrob- 


THE JUDGE S SUMMING UP 


227 


orate a “sensational story which could be published for large sums 
of money.” 

In cross-examination Newton agreed that he had lied often and 
for his own purposes. At Exeter, he had committed perjury himself 
and suborned a witness to commit perjury on his behalf. He agreed 
he was now trying to sell his story. 

“He is resolved to milk the case as hard as he can. He told us so. 
He has already been paid £10,950 for interviews with newspapers 
and television, plus the £5,000 from Holmes. I doubt whether he 
has paid any income tax.” 

One would not have thought there was any need to blacken 
Newton s character still further for the jury to see that Newton s 
evidence was suspect, even worthless. The judge had not heard a jot 
or tittle of evidence to suggest that Newton, in addition to this other 
crimes, was a tax evader; most of the £5,000 he received from 
Le Mesurier had been recovered by the police, and was produced 
as an exhibit in court; and the total of £10,950 was far less 
than Newton would have earned in three years as a commercial 
pilot. 

But the most interesting aspect of this passage was where the judge 
referred -almost inadvertently - to the £5,000 as having come from 
Holmes. Obviously he thought it had, and it was a reasonable infer¬ 
ence that it had, but the prosecution had not been able, in fact, to 
establish any link between the £20,000 given to Holmes by Mr 
Dinshaw - £9,500 of it in cash - and the £5,000 cash given by Le 
Mesurier to Deakin. As counsel and judge alike were at pains to point 
out, the burden of proof rested at every stage on the prosecution. 

The judge then discussed Newton’s story of having been offered 
£100,000 by the Evening News on the basis that Newton said it was 
a conspiracy to murder ratfier than to frighten. Mr Justice Cantley 
tended to disbelieve these figures, but pointed out that Newton 
agreed he had been peddling his story around: “He agreed that 
everything he has is for sale. He also agreed that he had the clearest 
possible motive for perjuring himself in these proceedings . . . One 
had to look at his evidence with great care, not only because he is an 
accomplice . . . but also because he has the clearest possible motives 
for making a sensational story.” The tape of a conversation between 
Holmes and Newton where reference is made to a “conspiracy to 
bloody . . . murder” might provide some corroboration, said the 
judge, if the jury chose to take it that way. Having warned them 
against accepting Newton’s uncorroborated evidence, the judge 
then listed the things which Newton proved if the jury believed him: 


228 


THE LAST WORD 


that Deakin briefed him to kill Scott at a meeting at Aust Motorway 
Service Station - this was uncorroborated and contradicted by 
Miller; that Holmes hired him to murder Scott for £10,000 - uncor¬ 
roborated, although there was no dispute that the meeting took 
place. Against Le Mesurier, Newton produced tapes to confirm the 
payment of £5,000. Another tape suggested that Le Mesurier might 
have been the person who originally thought up the solution to the 
Scott problem. 

Next, the judge turned to David Miller’s evidence. This sup¬ 
ported Deakin’s claim that when he introduced Deakin to Newton it 
was as someone who would frighten for money. It also suggested 
that Le Mesurier was an intermediary for Holmes. 

Miller was “the last of the dubious commercial witnesses.” It was 
up to the jury to decide whether they could believe these witnesses. 

Mr Jack Hayward and Mr Nadir Dinshaw, the Jersey business¬ 
man, by contrast, were “nice respectable witnesses.” The judge 
traced the timetable of payments, to Scott and Newton, relating 
them to the £20,000 received from Mr Hayward by Mr Dinshaw 
and handed over to Holmes. 

After lunch, as I say, it seemed to me that the judge’s observations 
lacked their earlier precision . One must remember that he was an 
elderly gentleman who had been talking now for a day and a half But 
it is hard to see what the jury can have made of his comments on 
Deakin’s evidence which, he said, did help the other witnesses, 
although not conclusively, for this reason: 

“If you’re hiring a man who is willing to frighten someone else for 
money, he’s the sort of man who might be prepared to do a murder 
for you. On the other hand, it’s a bit risky to hire someone to 
frighten and then ask him to do a murder for you, because if he says 
no, he might go away and tell somebody.” 

His thoughts on Thorpe seemed of an even more random nature. 
The judge would not read Thorpe’s statement as the jury already 
had a copy. A statement was not the same thing as evidence, except 
to the extent that it contains admissions. 

“But if a statement is made by a defendant in which he merely 
makes denials of the allegations against him or gives his reasons why 
he says the allegations are untrue, the statement is no evidence of 
what he says is true.” 

Where there were admissions, the jury should look carefully at 
qualifications in them. Thorpe had admitted there was an affection¬ 
ate relationship between him and Scott (in his press statement of 
October 1977) but he went on to say there was no homosexual 


THE JUDGE'S SUMMING UP 


229 


behaviour. On the other hand, the statement was not to be taken as 
an equivalent of evidence on oath. 

The judge then gave general advice to the jury on how they 
should approach the task of reaching a verdict. 

The first question they should ask themselves was whether there 
was a conspiracy to kill. If they were not sure there was a conspiracy 
to kill, that was an end to the matter, and all defendants should be 
acquitted on the conspiracy charge. 

If they decided, on the other hand that there was a conspiracy to 
murder, they should then go on to consider separately whether each 
of the defendants was a member of it. 

On the first point, of whether it was a conspiracy to murder or to 
frighten, he suggested that it might be a useful exercise for them to 
assume there was a conspiracy to frighten and see how it fitted in 
with the evidence. 

“That there was a conspiracy of some sort with Newton I don’t 
think is disputed. I don’t think Newton went on the moor with Scott 
just on some frolic of his own, or for some eccentric reason of his 
own.” 

When the judge had finished chuckling to himself over this sally, 
he tried fitting the evidence to the idea of a conspiracy to frighten. If 
the jury were listening closely to his more or less random observations 
on the point , they might have been excused for concluding that his 
lordship did not honestly think that the theory of a conspiracy to 
frighten fitted the evidence at all . 

“It has been suggested on behalf of Holmes and Le Mesurier that 
they might be in difficulties - heh! heh! - if charged with conspiracy 
to frighten but they never conspired with anyone to murder. Let us 
assume there was a conspiracy to frighten. You have to ask your¬ 
selves questions like this: would giving Scott a big fright serve to 
silence him? 

“What would conspirators of ordinary intelligence expect Scott 
to do if thoroughly frightened? 

“You have seen Scott for yourselves. He is a spineless neurotic 
character, addicted to hysteria and self-advertisement, rushing to 
others for help whenever he felt it would do any good. Would he be 
expected to keep quiet if thoroughly frightened? Or would con¬ 
spirators of reasonable intelligence expect him to be silenced by 
being thoroughly frightened? 

“The answer might be Yes, No, or Don’t know. If the latter, the 
jury should pass on.” 

Neither the question, nor the way in which it was put, suggested that 


230 


THE LAST WORD 


a “Don’t know’’ answer was likely , but the judge was plainly enjoying 
himself too much to resist the temptation of putting the same question 
twice again . 

“If, as Newton and Scott say, there were two attempts to lure 
Scott into a hotel - one in Kensington, the other in Bristol - 
how would conspirators of ordinary intelligence expect that to 
work out? 

“You get him there and give him a thorough fright. What happens 
next? What could you expect Scott to do next?” 

The third point at which to apply this assumption of conspiracy to 
frighten was on the deserted moor, where Newton took Scott with a 
loaded pistol and live ammunition. 

“Suppose he thoroughly frightens Scott by trying to shoot him - 
either by pretending the gun was jammed or by shooting at him but 
deliberately missing him - he would not give him a lift back in the 
car after that. He would be left on the moor. 

“What happens next? Does Scott say he had better not say 
anything or had better not mention names? Would people who 
knew Scott expect him really to keep quiet?” 

Finally, he suggested the jury should consider whether the gun 
really did jam on the moor. Was it a pretence, or if the gun jammed 
was that the reason why the whole thing failed? 

At this point the judge decided he had gone far enough. Nobody 
listening to the last passage could have doubted that the judge was 
inviting the jury to decide that there had been a conspiracy to murder , 
and that it had involved Holmes and Le Mesurier. Thorpe’s name 
had not been mentioned , and when the judge came round to it later it 
was equally plain he was not going to encourage the jury to convict 
Thorpe of anything. But having gone a long way towards advising 
them that on the first question - whether it was a conspiracy to kill or 
to frighten - they should decide it was a conspiracy to kill , he now 
backpedalled furiously . It was simply a question of which part the 
jury remembered more vividly . 

He reminded them that in deciding these questions they should 
remember where the burden of proof lay. 

“You must be sure it was a conspiracy to murder before you 
convict anybody. If you are left wondering which it was, then the 
Crown have not proved a conspiracy to murder. You are not being 
asked to decide whether it was a conspiracy to frighten. The ques¬ 
tion is: are you sure it was a conspiracy to murder. 

“If you think it was a conspiracy to frighten, that is an end of it. If 
you don’t know which it was, you cannot convict on a conspiracy to 



THE JUDGE’S SUMMING UP 


231 


murder. If you think it was but are not sure, then you cannot convict 
of conspiracy to murder.” 

Deakin and Miller both testified that at any rate in the beginning, 
it had been a conspiracy to frighten. And there was also the fact that 
at the end all that had happened was that Scott was thoroughly 
frightened. 

“So you could say: there you are, the proof of the pudding is in the 
eating. They asked for a man to frighten somebody, and look what 
happened, he was frightened.” 

Nothing seemed to have been thought out, whichever it was, said 
the judge, although “it could be argued that if the intention was to 
murder then even a conceited bungler like Newton might have been 
stimulated to take a little more care to avoid detection.” 

That ended discussion of whether it had been a conspiracy to 
frighten or to murder. At one point in the judge's rambling discourse 
it seemed there could be no doubt that he was unconvinced by defence 
suggestions of a conspiracy to frighten. In the sense that a summing 
up can be said to be directed towards a particular conclusion, 
this section was directed towards a conviction, at any rate of 
Holmes and Le Mesurier. Then came the sudden about-turn: no 
conviction was possible except under circumstances of utter certainty, 
and doubt might be introduced by various, slightly far-fetched 
considerations. 

The only explanation which occurs to me for this remarkable 
about-turn is that the judge suddenly noticed that his rambling dis¬ 
course was heading in the wrong direction. He may also have 
reflected that a jury might have been reluctant to convict Le Mesurier 
and Holmes while acquitting Thorpe. 

The judge next summarised the case against each defendant. 

Holmes agreed he was part of a conspiracy, but only to frighten. 
He paid Scott £2,500 in February 1974 at a time when he was short 
of money. Holmes actually admitted to Mr Bessell that he hired 
Newton to kill Scott, but only “if you accept the evidence of Mr 
Bessell.” Mr Bessell had a financial interest in conviction. Newton, 
also, said that Holmes had hired him to kill Scott - “if you believe 
Mr Newton.” Newton was an accomplice and it would be dangerous 
to accept his evidence in corroboration. Otherwise, there was only 
the telephone conversation to corroborate, when Holmes said, 
“Just fine. You may rely on that,” in answer to Newton saying he 
should keep quiet since there was a possibility of a charge of 
conspiracy to murder. The jury had to consider whether this state¬ 
ment implicated Holmes. “If you came to that conclusion, it is 



THE LAST ACRD 


capable of corroborating the evidence of Newton - e%en Newton;* 

Against Deakin, who. he said, was probably the type of man 
whose taste ran to a cocktail bar in his living room, there was no 
corroboration of Newton’s evidence whatever: indeed Newton's 
evidence was contradicted by Miller. 

Le Mesurier s counsel invited the jury to decide he never knew it 
was a conspiracy to murder until it was abandoned. Against him w as 
the evidence of Colin Lambert, the old soldier who worked for Le 
Mesurier. He said Le Mesurier told him: “We should have hired 
someone like you because the chap who w ent to do the shooting was 
an idiot.” The judge drew attention to his use of “we” in this 
context, but went on to suggest that Le Mesurier might have been 
trying to make out he had a bigger pan in something than he 
actually had. 

Where Thorpe was concerned, the evidence against him was 
“almost entirely circumstantial.” There was the question of motive. 
Motive was not always relevant, he said. “But motive and absence 
of motive may. in a particular case, be relevant. In this case, motive, 
although it is not conclusive - far from it - is not irrelevant in the 
case against Mr Thorpe. It is a matter you can take into account.” 
From 1965 onwards, Scott had been telling his story' to anyone who 
would listen: “It was the kind of star, people are so ready to believe 
these days, even if it wasn’t true. 

“You had the opportunity or seeing Scor. in the witness-box and 
you can see his vindictive attitude. Scott has said T pity him’. but he 
doesn’t - he hates him, whether with justification or no: is a differ¬ 
ent matter, 

“.And so in 1974. he was coming on. He wax a leader and he was 
a very successful leader, .And yet this wretched Scott is still in his 
constituency with his file and his grievance and his story and his 
visits to public houses and so on.” 

It would be quite wrong to suggest that the natural reaction would 
be to kill Scott. “But it would be in his interest if Scott stopped 
spreading this scandal, and he would also be greatly bene fitted if 
one way or another Scott was silenced.” 

There w as not a great deal of other evidence against Thorpe, said 
the judge . He had not ye: mentioned vte chief eyider.ce c gains: hirru 
He now proceeded :o do so, cl most as cn afterthought, as if there h is 
little importance to be attached to it . 

“There is Mr Bessell. If you accept his evidence - and I warned 
you about the danger in Bessell - then he established that in 19*69 
Sir Thorpe said of Scott. * We' ve got to get rid of him.’ 


THE JUDGE’S SUMMING UP 


233 


“He followed that - if you believe it - with an attempt at per¬ 
suading Mr Holmes to kill Scott. That is the charge of incitement/’ 

Next he dealt with the evidence from Mr Hayward that Thorpe 
had tried to persuade him to frighten off Mr Bessell from coming to 
England in 1978. Perhaps Thorpe was nervous of homosexual 
revelations, said the judge. Nobody denied that two sums of 
£10,000 were handed over to Holmes, and the prosecution had 
suggested they were raised to finance the conspiracy. But the 
jury had never been told what the money was for. Thorpe had 
produced a number of explanations about it and they could not 
all be true. 

“If, in the end, the only inference you can draw from the evidence 
about the money is that Mr Thorpe obtained it by telling lies to Mr 
Hayward, that does not add anything to the prosecution case. The 
fact that a man obtains money by deceit does not amount to any sort 
of proof that the man was a member of a conspiracy to murder 
somebody else.” 

At this point, I thought the judge was going too far, and the jury 
would react against him. They might have missed his comments at 
the beginning, where he was dealing with Holmes and advanced 
Newton as possibly corroborating Mr Bessell rather than the other 
way round. They may have missed the fudging of his earlier statement 
that Mr BesselTs evidence did not need corroborating. They may 
have accepted his cavalier treatment of the evidence against Le 
Mesurier as suggesting no more than that Le Mesurier was boasting 
of having committed a crime he did not commit. But to dismiss the 
evidence of Mr Hayward and Mr Dinshaw as having no relevance to 
the conspiracy charge struck me as pushing his luck. In the course of 
doing so, the judge invited them to accept that Thorpe was a liar. 
Why, in that case, did the judge seem so extraordinarily anxious-and 
prepared to stand so much of the prosecution case on its head - in 
order to see him off the charges he faced? Perhaps he was reluctant to 
sentence a public figure, perhaps he felt sympathy for Thorpe over the 
persecution by Scott. We shall probably never know. But if the jury 
could see the summing up as no more and no less than an extension of 
Mr Carman's speech for the defence they might easily decide not to be 
spoon-fed to this extent. Or so I thought. But I did not have the 
judge's long experience of British juries, or of how malleable they are 
when treated with consideration and courtesy. 

The judge ended with a further reason for acquitting Thorpe, 
even if it meant sending Holmes to prison. He reminded the jury 
that Mr Carman had asked them to consider whether, even if 



234 


THE LAST WORD 


Holmes was a member of a conspiracy to murder, it followed that 
Thorpe was in it, too. 

“I do not know what motives you could think of for Mr Holmes 
doing all this by himself,” said the judge. Mr Bessell had said 
Holmes was very loyal and devoted to the Liberal Party. 

“I am not a political animal so I cannot understand that but it is 
obvious that some people are very loyal to political parties. 

“If you are wondering whether perhaps Holmes did it himself and 
Thorpe did not know, it follows the case against Thorpe is not 
proved.” 

Leaving that thought in their heads, the judge proposed to 
adjourn until the next day. First, he had suggested they ask them¬ 
selves whether perhaps Holmes did it by himself, then he said that if 
they were wondering whether this was the case they should acquit 
Thorpe. The introduction of this new element of “wonder” seemed to 
offer an interesting extension of the familiar doctrine of reasonable 
doubt . 

There, as I say, the judge would have left it, but Mr Carman 
foolishly decided to push his luck still further. Jumping to his feet he 
told the judge that there was no evidence at all that if there was a 
conspiracy to frighten, it ever became more serious. 

Nor, of course, there was. It was a device by which the jury were 
given the option of acquitting Deakin andlor Le Mesurier while 
convicting Thorpe and Holmes - a way of saying they believed Mr 
Bessell, disbelieved Newton . The prosecution seemed ready to accept 
it as a device for acquitting Deakin. The judge, however, was not 
going to be pushed around. Despite the fact that they were both on the 
same side - or perhaps because of it - he seemed to find Mr Carman 
strangely irritating, and certainly wasn't going to take any lessons 
from the tiny Lancashire man on how to conduct Thorpe's defence . 

“I am going to leave that to the jury,” he said. It was true there 
was no evidence of a change of course in the conspiracy, but then a 
“conspiracy charge is never supported by minutes of the meeting of 
the conspirators.” This, I thought, was rather a dangerous admission 
from the point of view of the defence. If the judge had made it earlier 
and in a more general context it might have shown the prosecution 
case in a more favourable light than either Mr Carman or the judge 
really wanted. The court adjourned. 


Day twenty-nine: 20 June 1979 

Next morning the judge was as good as his word, and spent only a 


THE JUDGE S SUMMING UP 


235 


few minutes on the means by which the jury were to reach their 
verdict for an acquittal. First, they should consider the conspiracy 
charge to which all four defendants had pleaded not guilty: 

“You should ask yourselves if you are sure there was a conspiracy 
to murder Norman Scott. Put it that way because that is the correct 
way to apply the burden of proof, which is on the prosecution. If the 
answer to that is “No we are not sure,” that is an end to it, because if 
there was no conspiracy, none of the accused can be guilty of it. 

“If the answer is ‘Yes, we are sure,’ then you should proceed 
conscientiously to examine the evidence against each of the defen¬ 
dants in turn. If you find a doubt about any of the accused, he is 
entitled to be acquitted.” 

He went on to deal with the second charge of incitement, against 
Thorpe alone. 

“Again you must ask yourself if you are sure that early in 1969 
Thorpe seriously and genuinely tried to persuade Holmes to murder 
Mr Scott. If you are completely sure, you will convict, but if there is 
any reasonable doubt you will acquit.” 

He warned them that he expected a unanimous verdict, and 
would not accept anything less. Then, with a smile and a wave, he 
said: “You may go now. Take as long as you like. There is no hurry. 
We shall wait for you.” 




17 

Verdict, Aftermath and Epilogue 


The jury was out all the day. At nightfall, they were taken to a 
secret hotel, unable to talk to anyone except a court official to say 
whether or not they had reached a unanimous verdict. The four 
defendants were taken to Brixton Prison for the night. Three of 
them were shut up in circumstances of considerable privation in a 
cell with two other prisoners, one of them apparently an aggressive 
Negro who had been convicted of manslaughter. Thorpe, however, 
found himself afflicted by an upset stomach, and was taken to the 
prison hospital, where conditions were less austere. The prison 
authorities were reluctant to reveal whether it was normal to take 
people to hospital suffering from a stomach upset. 

Next day, again, the jury deliberated throughout the morning and 
throughout the long afternoon. Various accounts have been given 
of how their deliberations went - one version, based on an interview 
with a single juror, appeared in the New Statesman of 27 July 1979. 
It was written by Peter Chippindale and David Leigh, the two 
Guardian journalists who had been covering the case for many 
months and who published their own account of the committal 
proceedings in Minehead, The Thorpe Committal. A second version 
appears in the excellently readable, if slightly rushed, background 
to the case by three Sunday Times journalists, Lewis Chester, 
Magnus Linklater and David May, Jeremy Thorpe , A Secret Life . 
Both are agreed that a majority soon settled for acquittal on the first 
point (that there had been no conspiracy for murder), and that they 
decided, after the judge’s remarks about pecuniary interest, that Mr 
Bessell’s evidence could not be accepted unless it was corroborated. 
This inevitably meant acquittal on the second charge. They disagree 
on the details, and I have nothing first-hand to add to their accounts. 

That night, once again, the four defendants were taken to 
Brixton prison. Once again, Thorpe found that his stomach was 
upset, and was taken to the prison hospital. That afternoon, after 
lunch - the defendants*ate well, on smoked salmon, beef and wine 




VERDICT, AFTERMATH AND EPILOGUE 


237 


supplied by Clement Freud, a Liberal MP with business interests in 
the restaurant and hotel trade - the jury returned for Celia 
Kettle-Williams, the foreman, to make her contribution to the 
history of our times, acquitting all four defendants on all charges. 

The time was just after half-past two, and the jury had been out 
for fifty-two hours. The trial had lasted six weeks. No sooner had the 
verdicts been announced than there was a stampede for the door, 
which gave the judge an opportunity to end the trial as he had begun 
it, threatening journalists with the power of the court. “Keep still, 
stand still or regret it,” he snapped. 

One by one, counsel stood up to make their applications for costs. 
Mr Mathew, for Mr Holmes, said that his client had been prepared 
to admit the lesser charge of conspiracy to frighten throughout. The 
Crown was to blame for this long and expensive trial because it had 
chosen to prefer the graver charge. The judge said he would have to 
consider whether Mr Holmes had brought it on his head by his 
reluctance to help the police. Mr Williams, for Mr Deakin, said the 
proceedings were no fault of Deakin, who had volunteered state¬ 
ments, never changed his story and given evidence. Mr Cowley 
asked for a £100 contribution back which Mr Le Mesurier had paid 
towards his costs. Mr Carman decided against making any applica¬ 
tion on behalf of Mr Thorpe. 

Carman: “No adverse inference must be drawn from the fact that 
I do not make any application in respect of his costs in the case. But, 
at the risk of reiteration, that does not involve any admission of any 
kind of legal culpability.” 

The judge: “You are saying that it was a matter properly 
investigated?” 

Carman: “Properly investigated and, if I may say so, now prop¬ 
erly decided.” 

The judge granted costs to Mr Deakin, refused them to Mr 
Holmes and Mr Le Mesurier. 

After the verdicts became known, many statements were issued. 
Mr David Steel, the new leader of the Liberal Party, seemed in no 
hurry to welcome Mr Thorpe back to the fold: 

The news of Jeremy Thorpe’s acquittal has come as a great 
relief to the large number of his friends and colleagues within 
Parliament and outside it. The ordeal, which both he and Marion 
have faced with such characteristic courage, has, in the words of 
his counsel, destroyed his parliamentary career. Nothing, how¬ 
ever, can take away the great contribution he has made to the 


238 


THE LAST WORD 


political life of this country in general, and to the Liberal Party in 
particular, whatever misjudgements he may have made. I hope 
that after a suitable period of rest and recuperation he may find 
many avenues where his great talents may be used. 

Sir Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister, had no comment 
to make. Mr Alf Parsons, former chairman of the North Devon 
Liberals, said, “I am thoroughly delighted. I have known all along 
that Jeremy was innocent of the charges against him. If there is a 
nomination for ‘Woman of the Year’ I would like to nominate Mrs 
Thorpe.” 

Mr Thorpe issued a statement through his solicitor, Sir David 
Napley: “I have always maintained that I was innocent of the 
charges brought against me. The verdict of the jury, after a pro¬ 
longed and careful investigation by them, I regard as totally fair, just 
and a complete vindication .. .” 

Sir David Napley added, “Kindness and humanity require that 
he should be left alone for a while.” Later we learned that he 
was drinking champagne at his wife’s house in Orme Square, 
Paddington, after an hour and a half closeted with his legal 
advisers. His stomach upset appeared to have resolved itself. 

Norman Scott said he was not in the least bit surprised by the 
result. A mighty cheer went up from the crowd outside the Old 
Bailey when Mr Thorpe eventually emerged. Andrew Newton, 
on hearing the verdict, said, “I am not too wrapped up in that 
judge.” 

Lord Goodman issued a statement: 

“In view of the observations from the learned judge and leading 
counsel relating to the individuals whose names were brought into 
the case without being parties or witnesses, it would be quite 
unnecessary for any further statement to be made by me except to 
reaffirm that there is not a scintilla of truth in any of the allegations 
that have been aired.” 

The Press Council announced it would urgently consider the ethi¬ 
cal issues raised by the trial. The Director of Public Prosecutions 
justified his action in bringing the prosecution by the length of time 
the jury had taken to decide on an acquittal. 

The Daily Star produced a moving tribute to Mr Thorpe in his 
moment of triumph: 

Jeremy Thorpe, ex-leader of the Liberal Party and passionate 
democrat, was fired by the belief that right would triumph in the 
end. It was his unswerving belief in himself, and the unshakeable 



VERDICT, AFTERMATH AND EPILOGUE 


239 


knowledge that he was innocent, that made Mr Thorpe a mighty 
man. After Norman Scott’s first courtroom allegation, Mr Thorpe 
spent three years in the public pillory. It all began many years 
before with a chance meeting and a few words of kindness for a 
weak, lonely boy . .. 

Jeremy Thorpe, the man with the film-star charm, once 
dreamed of the political peaks he planned to scale. He wished to 
be remembered as a statesman of stature and courage, of vision 
and of truth. He expected to achieve that at Westminster. He may 
well have achieved it in the dock of the Old Bailey. 

Other press comment was more reserved. All newspapers agreed 
that on the uncontested evidence alone, Mr Thorpe’s political 
career was finished. All over Fleet Street one heard the noise of 
tearing paper as “background” stories, written in the expectation 
that the defendants would be convicted, were torn up. London 
Weekend Television, which had commissioned the journalists 
Penrose and Courtiour to prepare a huge two-hour documentary - 
over a year’s work, costing a rumoured £250,000 - decided not to 
show it. The BBC, which had had a unit engaged on the job even 
longer, shredded its film. 

Elsewhere, faint sounds of derision could be heard. Private Eye 
produced a Special Acquittal Souvenir issue, with the picture of a 
triumphant Jeremy Thorpe under the bubble: “Buggers can’t be 
losers.” A punk group, Rex Barker and the Ricochets, produced a 
45 rpm record, “Jeremy is Innocent.” It consisted of the refrain, 
“Jeremy, Jeremy,” interrupted by a barking dog and gun fire. Peter 
Cook, the grand old man of British satire, produced a twelve-inch 
long-playing record devoted to a parody of Mr Justice Cantley’s 
summing up. 

But in one quarter, at lfcast, there was no derision. At the tiny 
eleventh-century church of Bratton Fleming on Exmoor - a good 
twenty miles from the spot where Rinka was shot to death and in the 
heart of Thorpe’s constituency - the Sunday of 1 July 1979 was 
devoted to a “Thanksgiving Service for Marion and Jeremy 
Thorpe,” attended by Mr and Mrs Thorpe and Mr Thorpe’s young 
son, Rupert. A largish collection of the world’s press and a handful 
of villagers heard the incumbent, the Reverend John Hornby, 
announce of Mr Thorpe: “Countless thousands of people in North 
Devon rise up and call him Blessed!” 

Mr Hornby, who doubled as Rural Dean and Chairman of 
the village Liberals Association, invited the congregation of 


240 


THE LAST WORD 


seventy-five to pray that Mr Thorpe would be re-adopted by the 
Liberal Party as their candidate for the next General Election. 

At least one person present felt that the service was designed to 
celebrate a resurrection. When the Archdeacon of Barnstaple, the 
Venerable Ronald Herniman, later criticised the service as being in 
bad taste, Mr Hornby replied that his critics were the sort of people 
who “w ? ould probably have been disappointed if Jesus Christ had 
not been crucified.” 

It was a very English occasion, and a suitable ending to the 
Jeremy Thorpe story. “By common consent, Jeremy has been the 
best MP North Devon has ever had and ever could have,” said Mr 
Hornby. He prayed that God would “drive out from human hearts 
the Evils of Suspicion, Hatred and most of all the Self- 
Righteousness of all those concerned in the recent trial at the Old 
Bailey.” 

He offered prayers for the “deliverance of Jeremy, Marion, 
Rupert and their families from the recent ordeal through which they 
have now come.” The grace of God had upheld them through the 
long, dark tunnel. 

For the first lesson, Mr John Gregory, grey-haired, quiet-looking 
chairman of the North Devon Liberal Party, read from the 
Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus XLIV:1 “Let us now praise famous 
men.” The second lesson, read by Councillor Douglas Potter, 
chairman of the North Devon District Council, w f as St Luke’s 
account of the birth of Christ. Mr Hornby chose as the text for his 
sermon the passage from Luke 1:37: “For with God nothing shall be 
impossible.” 

“God is so fantastic in His making things possible which He 
wishes to happen. No wonder we have the opportunity to give 
thanks to God for the ministry of his servant Jeremy in North 
Devon. My dears, don’t you think if it had been you or I in Jeremy’s 
or Marion’s shoes, that we’d be either round the bend or in the 
madhouse, or had a couple of coronaries long since with all they’ve 
been through in the last year? 

“The darkness is now past and the True Light shines! This is the 
day which the Lord hath made! Now r is the day of our salvation! 
Thanks be to God, for with God nothing is impossible!”